Out of Bounds

No matter how much admiration and praise we shower them with and no matter how perfect we believe them to be, professional athletes are still in fact human beings.

That being said, they are human beings who can play a sport on a higher plane than most - and for that reason they carry the hearts and desires of entire cities on their backs. This is a fact that athletes and teams seem to be forgetting. These days, it seems as if they continually ignore any semblance of loyalty to a city.

Don't agree? Watch "SportsCenter," or better yet, ask any Packers fan. What you will discover is that the sports heroes of old, the larger-than-life deities who were above any criticism, are being replaced by people who break laws, expose teammates and have zero respect for lifelong fans.

In 2004, if you told a Red Sox fan that Manny Ramirez would make their lives miserable by sitting out games for insubstantial reasons, playing with the intensity of a DMV employee or speaking ill of fans and management before being traded, it would've bordered on blasphemy. Fast forward just a few years later and that's just what's happened. The thought of one of baseball's immortals such as Babe Ruth or Willie Mays pulling the same antics is utterly impossible to conceive.

While they certainly had their faults, sports heroes of prior generations knew they had an obligation to the fans who allowed them to make a living by playing a sport they loved. It is the fans that make athletes rich and famous and some of today's superstars seem to have forgotten that.

For years, quarterback Brett Favre was the apple of Green Bay's eye, the face of the franchise. When Favre's long, confusing road found him in a Vikings uniform facing the Packers on Oct. 5 though, the sight must have been surreal and gut-wrenching for any Packers fan.

Neither Favre nor Ramirez, however, should be punished for leaving the teams that made them famous for another franchise. At the end of the day, where an athlete plays is his or her own decision, and should be based on what he or she believes is best for their career.

In doing this, however, shouldn't there still be a level of respect and dedication to the thousands that come to see them play?

A simple shout out to his old Green Bay fans, many of whom still wanted to hold a special place in their hearts for Favre, would have been enough to show that he has not forgotten about them.

Instead of pouting or being lazy, shouldn't Ramirez have at least played his heart out underneath the shadow of the Green Monster before asking for a trade? The greatest crime these athletes have committed is not in leaving the places that made them superstars, it's forgetting that they still owe something to those fans.

With that in mind, the National Football League's support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a breath of fresh air. In the first weekend of October, NFL teams showed their support in a variety of ways.

Each team has been handing out pink ribbon pins to fans, while on the field players don pink cleats, gloves and towels to show the league's support. In one of the more testosterone-laden professional leagues, men of gigantic proportions are showing that they too have a softer side.

Eventually, the merchandise will be auctioned off and proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

The pink is everywhere: coaches' hats, the pregame toss coin and the goalposts covered in pink padding. The color shows the NFL's caring side, a side that will always - and should always - belong to the fans.

For the players and the organization, this is a simple way to put their undeniable influence to good use, to show that they still have a commitment to the people supporting them. While the NFL may be all about winning games and making money, every flash of pink shows fans that the organization realizes its influence and responsibility that it still has the ability to put the fans first.

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