Yesterday, after winning her first Grand Slam title, the US Open, Coco Gauff said, “honestly, thank you to the people who didn’t believe in me. Like a month ago, I won a 500 title and people said I would stop at that. Two weeks ago, I won a 1000 title and people were saying that was the biggest I was going to get. So, three weeks later, I’m here with this trophy right now.” She had never won a Grand Slam before. She was just knocked out of Wimbledon in the first round, and she expected every tennis reporter and every fan to pick her to win the US Open or they’re disrespecting her? Does that even make sense? She expected unanimous consensus that she is going to win the US Open, really?
This has become a common trend in sports. The athlete who won the game or the championship or the gold medal, in the post-game interview, always finds a way to call out “those who didn’t believe in me.” Why is that necessary? Is everybody obligated to believe in you at all times? Was everybody in the world required to pick you to be the victor in the game and nobody else? And many times, they talk about the people didn’t believe in them much more than they talk about the people who did believe in them. How arrogantly clueless do you have to be to believe that everybody must believe that you are going to win at all times, or they are somehow disrespecting you. Your victory was not a foregone conclusion. The pundits do not have a crystal ball. Your opponents are some of the best players in the world. Don’t they deserve respect also? If every single person picked Coco Gauff to win the US Open, wouldn’t her opponent, Aryna Sabalenka – the world’s number one ranked female player – feel disrespected?
Not everyone in the world is going to love you. Not everyone in the world is going to pick you to win all the time. Why does everyone have to claim to be the victim? I watched most of Coco Gauff’s finals match, yesterday. The crowd was overwhelmingly supporting her to the extent that I began to feel sorry for her opponent. It felt like the crowd was rooting against Sabalenka, more than rooting for Gauff. If you play a professional sport, people are going to root for you and root against you; people are going to pick you to win or pick someone else to win. Everything is not a slight. Everything is not disrespect. Chris Everett who announced the match was effusive with praise of Gauff. Are these the fragile athletes we have today? Everyone must love them all the time or they take it as disrespect. It’s not disrespect, its life. Get over yourself.
Almost at the same time yesterday, after the Colorado Buffaloes defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 36-14, star quarterback Shedeur Sanders said, “It was extremely personal, you go out there and warm up and you’ve got the head coach from the other team standing in the middle of the Buff. It’s OK if a couple of players do it, it’s fine, just enjoy the scenery. But when you’ve got the whole team trying to disrespect it… The coach said a lot of things about my pops, about the program. I don’t respect that because you’re hating on another man.”
The disrespect the younger Sanders was referring to about his “pops” was when Matt Rhule said, “I hear other schools (say) they can’t wait for today, the transfer portal, they can’t wait to go out … I can’t wait to coach my guys, let me tell you that… I’m not thinking about anybody else but this team out here.” Matt Rhule never mentioned Sanders, all he said was that he is not a fan of the transfer portal. But since, Rhule has a different opinion on that subject than Deion Sanders, that is the ultimate disrespect? So, everyone must agree with Deion Sanders on every issue or else you are disrespecting and hating on him. Is that the way it works? Matt Rhule was so disrespectful to Deion Sanders, that after getting beat pretty soundly, Matt Rhule, instead of meeting at midfield, walked all the way across the field to Colorado sidelines to shake hands with Deion, congratulate him and wish him luck, because he knew Deion just had two of his toes amputated and is having trouble walking right now. That’s how disrespectful Matt Rhule was Shedeur Sanders’ pops.
But this is what is being taught to Shedeur Sanders. After Colorado’s first win at TCU last week, Deion Sanders levied some wild charges of racism against anonymous people. He said, “when you see a confident black man, talking his talk and walking his walk, they don’t like that”. His language is very revealing. In the beginning of his sentence, he accuses “you” of racism, and then “they” at the end. The incongruence of the pronoun use in his statement means that he is just firing wild accusations in the dark. The use of non-specific pronouns allows him to lobby accusations into the ether without providing any examples, without giving anybody a chance to refute his charge, so he can continue to play the victim.
For people who are constantly talking about being disrespected, they throw out a lot of disrespect at others. After defeating TCU last week, Sanders and his teammates went into the TCU stands, showing more disrespect to TCU than anyone can accuse Matt Rhule of showing to Colorado. But if you want to see glaring examples of disrespect on the football field, go to YouTube and watch Deion Sanders highlight videos. High stepping it into the end zone and performing a pre-arranged dance after a pick-six, is disrespectful to your opponent and disrespectful to the game. It always seems that the people who show the most disrespect to others, are the ones who are always demanding respect for themselves. Their attitude is you must respect me at all times, but I have the right to disrespect you whenever I want.
Maybe I’m just too old school, but there was another Sanders drafted two spots ahead of Deion in 1989, whose name was Barry Sanders. He’s arguably one of the greatest football players ever to play. When he scored one of his 109 NFL touchdowns, he didn’t dance, he didn’t strut, he didn’t point his thumbs at himself, he didn’t even spike the ball. He handed the ball to the official and went back to work. That would be refreshing to watch today.
But sadly, this is the society we live in now. It is the social media, Instagram, Twitter society, where everybody is putting themselves on display, and determining their self-worth by how many anonymous strangers they can claim as their “friends” or “followers”. It is all about ‘look at me’, ‘look at me’. They demand the things of others, that they refuse to give in return. This is where we are in the country today. It is the “love me” generation. Everybody has to love them always. Everybody has to affirm them always. Even though they don’t love everybody, even though they don’t affirm everybody. It is exactly the opposite message that should be sent. It’s the epitome of narcissism, demanding love from everyone, but rarely giving it in return. These people have lived such a privilege life that they actually believe that if everybody in the world doesn’t love them and effusively praise them, then they are a victim.
We see this in the trans movement. Not only do trans-people want to live out their delusions in open society, but they demand that everybody in the world must affirm and support them living out their delusions. And if anyone doesn’t support and affirm them, then they call them “haters”. So, the rest of us have to suspend our grasp of reality or else we are the “haters”.
In the final analysis of our lives, it is not how much we are loved, that counts; it is how much we love. Deion Sanders claims that he is a Christian, but he has completely missed that most vital Christian message. When Jesus preached to his disciples about love, it wasn’t about everybody loving him, it was about how they were expected to love their fellow man – “Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Love one another as I have loved you.” He didn’t say demand that everybody loves you even though you don’t love them. That was not Jesus’ message. So, all the gold crosses become tarnished when you completely invert the essence of Jesus’ teaching.
Writer David Foster Wallace once wrote, “you’ll stop worrying what others think about you when you realize how seldom they do.” And that’s the point. We spend exponentially more time thinking about ourselves compared to how much time others think about us. In the end, if you have a handful of people in your life who truly love you and care about you, that’s more than you need.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.