Spoiler alert: Jon Jones is out of UFC 200 after apparently failing an out of competition drug test. Everyone can speculate why but the facts are that once again an extremely talented, young athlete in his prime has made a decision that will have far-reaching effects. Fighters and fans alike are reeling from the announcement and expect the talking heads to hash and rehash it from barber shops to ESPN studios. There’s only one thing I feel about it right now.
It’s Our Fault
Yeah, I said it. It’s not like Jones is the first fighter to make bad choices. Just look at boxing, pick a weight class and you’ll find tons of examples of fighters who ruined their potentials with bad decisions. We can assume that great athletes, like great musicians are simply wired differently, that their perspective on risk is filtered through a different lens that the rest of us use. I call b.s.
Yes Jon Jones is a grown man. Yes, he is responsible for his own decisions. Yes, he should have had people in his corner who were willing to tell him the truth and stop him from making self-destructive mistakes. But in America we don’t do that. We think mistakenly that because someone has excelled in one area, that they’re great at everything. Look at late night television. How many times have we watched actors get asked questions that they obviously have no background to answer simply because they’re famous? Should we be asking Jim Carrey whether or not vaccinations are harmful? Does his background in comedy and movies give him the years of scientific training to be able to critically evaluate studies on either side of the issue? Why do we care what Stacey Dash believes one way or the other? Does her ability to memorize large amounts of vocabulary and then repeat it as if it’s not memorized material validate or invalidate our own opinion of conservatism vs liberalism? Read that sentence again.
I had an email exchange with an extremely well-known powerlifter earlier today I’m not mentioning his name because that’s not the point. Suffice it to say, if I did say his name, and you follow powerlifting at all, you’d recognize it. Anyway, during the conversation, I gave him what I considered good advice. Yes, I gave this star athlete advice. He’s definitely much more accomplished in strength sports than I will ever be. But he’s a young man, looking at his career so far and wondering what the future holds especially since powerlifting isn’t a sport you can actually make money in. I remember being at that crossroads point and I told him what I wished someone would have told me when I was his age. I’m sure this guy has other people in his life and maybe it wasn’t my place to say anything. After all nobody wants to be that guy. You know the one who knows everything? Natural habitat barber shops and commercial gyms. But how many times have we seen someone make a bad decision and they say, “I wish I’d had somebody to talk to?” Even worse, “I wish I’d had somebody to who would listen.”
It’s Our Responsibility
Our society pays lip service to the importance of mentoring. Big Brothers, Big Sisters etc. So why don’t we accept that it’s possible that young men and women who achieve fame because of their talents in a particular field, be it music or sports might actually need grounded, unbiased advice even more than the rest of us? Imagine being thrust into a situation where everybody is pulling you in ten directions, everybody wants a piece of you. Everybody wants you to repost their Instagram post,(yes even me) wear their product, mention their name, get them into this event or that event, loan them money for this business venture or to help them get out of that debt? And you’re a kid? Now imagine that your family’s welfare depends on you being able to perform in front of strangers on demand? And not just your family. Add in the families of everyone who works in the organization because if you don’t perform, revenues to the organization go down and layoffs start. No pressure. Can you see why a young person might need a dose of common sense from time to time?
I think it’s time to give a damn. To stop and talk to the kids in the neighborhood instead of chasing them off your lawn. To let them cut your grass or watch you work on your car instead of being too busy. And if you’re in the life of one of a talented young person. Don’t be afraid to share your wisdom when it’s warranted. And don’t think you don’t have any. If you’re ten minutes ahead of somebody on a path, you’ve got ten more feet of experience than them and you need to share it.
Tiger Woods was doing fine when he could talk to his father, Earl. Mike Tyson avoided scandal while Cus D’Amato was alive. Even Superman could fly home to Smallville to talk it over with his Mom when it got rough and Batman had Alfred. Who had Jon Jones’ back? I don’t know and maybe he didn’t either.
John Greaves III is a freelance writer and amateur powerlifter in North Georgia. His work has appeared in Power Magazine, powerliftingwatch.com, NaturalStrength.com, Strength Advocate, the Chattanooga Times and various trade publications. John is the author of the coming of age novel, A Different Kind of Giant, available on Amazon.com. You can contact him through his website johngreavesIII.net.