We hate sports.

Okay that can't be true. ESPN just generated $11 billion in revenue last year, and I couldn't get my ritualistic post-game Zaxby's because of the massive traffic congestion that 100,000 people inevitably cause on Saturday evenings in Knoxville.

Perhaps we don't hate sports; we hate athletes.

Okay that can't be true, either. Have you asked someone about Peyton Manning lately? It is nearly fetishistic how people idolize him, and he doesn't even play within an entire time zone of us.

Watching the video of Inky Johnson's William Wallace-esque speech to the UT Football players had many of us former high school wannabes scrambling to strap on our old pads.

Maybe we don't hate all athletes; we hate bad athletes.

Athletes whose off-the-field antics color outside the lines of the expected childhood role model are crucified daily by sports news networks. We define athletes not only by their skill and value as an on the field asset, but primarily by their ethical and moral values.

ESPN's marketing strategy has shifted from purely analytical sports coverage to a man's version of soap opera drama. The reporting mimics your grandmother's favorite network late night news more than to its other sports journalism counterparts, NBC Sports and Fox Sports 1.

And we watch.

Although much can be said for the economic success of capitalizing on our obsession with the athlete's moral compass, more can be said about America's priorities.

We never focused on whether Tim Tebow could figure out which end of the field to actually throw to. We wanted to talk about how he was the son of a missionary.

More people are concerned with whether Johnny Manziel – who, for the record, turns 21 in December – was blasted in some dive bar last weekend than with his prospects of another Heisman-worthy season.

The nation demands moral superiority from these athletes while turning an unminding eye on a candidate for New York mayor who has allegedly solicited sex from minors and sent explicit pictures of his crotch to multiple unwilling recipients.

College students in particular; how many of us hold intimate knowledge of the latest Manziel story without any clue to the Anthony Wiener scandal?

With American politics being overrun with unethical behavior, why is the integrity of a man who wears tight pants and hits other men in tight pants expected to set an example for our children?

Our constant scrutiny of athletes puts them under not only pressure to perform on the field, but off the field too. This is a far cry from the heroes of the sports past.

We remember athletes of old for their on-the-field heroics, not their off-field antics.

Every baseball fanatic knows Ty Cobb will forever hold the MLB career batting average record at an astonishing .366.

Most people don't know, however, that he was a violent drunk who was arrested dozens of times.

And Joe Dimaggio, the only MLB player who has ever hit in 56 consecutive games? He consistently smoked cigarettes in the dugout, and some conspiracy theorists believe he may have played a part in the alleged suicide of Marilyn Monroe, his former wife.

These superstars still remain in our minds and hearts as great American heroes. They are champions, regardless of their poor ethical and moral compasses.

Today, however, the greatness of an athlete depends on the foolish notion that these players are more than supreme physical specimens; we force them into a mold of the personal values we hold in high esteem.

We have the power to choose who we look up to. We need to stop desperately searching for our core values in the behavior of athletes. We need to realize that some of our most cherished American icons do nothing more than catch or throw a ball.

When Cordarelle Patterson catches a 50-plus-yard pass, the reception should not impose a moral imperative upon him to be a role model off the field.

Being elected to public office? Representation demands a much higher moral conscious.

Let us shift our efforts from digging into the fruitless mine that is professional athletes and focus on finding people who alter our community both locally and nationally.

Let us demand role models from our representative government, not the tight pants-clad heroes on Saturday afternoons.

Chase Parker is a junior in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. He can be reached sparke23@utk.edu.