Editorials and Opinions

Bench the “dumb jock” stereotype

By Peter Franco
Published: April 2009

Note: Even though I am an athlete, by writing this article I elevate myself to a level similar to godliness, so I may refer to athletes as “they, “them, or “the peasantry, and avoid any possible hypocrisy.

To begin, “Newton South is a name that doesn’t necessarily ring with athletic glory. To put it gently, South derives fame more from academics than sports. Nevertheless, the athletes, or “jocks, of South have been subject to the universal depiction of athletes as “simple-minded. This stereotype is stamped on them unfairly, though, through no fault of their own, and it does not accurately represent the athletic population.
Okay, maybe they deserve some of the blame; I admit that I’ve met a jock or two who fell below my reasonable expectation for average human intelligence, but it’s unfair to apply the term “dumb to every athlete.

Some athletes, like swimmers and track runners, aren’t subject to what I call the “Under Armor commercial stereotype, which portrays athletes as intense, muscle-bound jocks who focus on nothing but sports. However this characterization often extends to players of a variety of sports, like football or wrestling, who don’t deserve such a sweeping generalization.

My point is not to prove that all athletes are brilliant. Rather, I want to clear up the popularly held belief that all athletes are complete boneheads. Although, there do exist a few who put themselves through the classic Newton South workload, with five honors classes and straight A’s on top of it.

Even if they don’t make High Honor Roll every term, the majority of athletes are reasonably intelligent kids. Even if every single one of them doesn’t necessarily try exceptionally hard in school or particularly care about maintaining their image as geniuses, the vast majority will not interrupt English class to clarify whether Shakespeare was Chinese or not.

So raise your hand if you have ever formed your first impression of someone based on what sport they play, or expressed incredulity that an “Under Armor commercial jock is enrolled in an honors class, or were surprised that he or she said something insightful. Now, if you’re awkwardly raising your hand while your teacher is talking because you forgot you were in class, put it down.

As for the rest of you, sitting quietly at your desks, I urge you not to subject all athletes to the same judgment that you inflict on that kid in history class who forgot that Barack Obama is the current president. Give athletes the benefit of the doubt, as you would any other person; they are any other person, after all, except that they happen to play a sport.

Assume someone is brilliant until they prove to be otherwise. After all, isn’t it unfair that South’s athletes at have to bear the misconceptions of being bad at sports and unintelligent?

Lastly, you shouldn’t judge athletes simply because it’s not good to be judgmental. There are a good many proverbs that warn against judging (pot and kettle, throwing the first stone, etc.), so it’s a safe guess that it should be avoided.

To be fair, it’s true that I can, at times, be judgmental as well, but at least I judge people based on less superficial and more credible things’€like how they look, the vibes and pheromones they emit, and occasionally how they smell. Judging someone based on their athleticism alone is just downright despicable.

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