For a lot of us, sports is a chance to escape from the stress and concerns of the real world. We follow and cheer for men and women exhibiting physical skills most cannot hope to emulate. It is, at its heart, pure entertainment.
But athletes also live in the real world. Many of them realize they have been given remarkable gifts, and if they make it to the professional leagues, they can make very large amounts of money. And many feel a responsibility to give back to the community. There are millions of dollars provided to charities by pro athletes, both through personal donations and fundraising. And often they use their own fame to help draw attention to problems that need to be solved.
On Saturday, a couple of Dallas Cowboys legends were joined by a pair of rising stars from the team at the Dallas Men Against Abuse rally. The rally was put together to get the message out that men committing violence against women is still the most common form of domestic abuse, one of the few types of crime still on the rise while most categories, at least in Dallas, are declining, and that there is nothing manly about it.
Hall of Famers Roger Staubach and Emmitt Smith both spoke out, trying to get the message across that there is no place for physical abuse in the home. Both exemplified excellence on the field, and both have led remarkable lives since leaving the game. They have made money and moved on to other fields (like that little dancing show Smith was in), and both have been almost perfect images of what many wish sports figures could be, true examples of how to live your life. Smith played on the fact that, right or not, athletes become role models to many younger men, especially in a society that is seeing more and more single parent families. He challenged the macho attitude that is often a part of attacks on women by men, and challenged men to not only control themselves, but to help others learn how.
Smith, who like Staubach was a longtime fixture of the Dallas Cowboys, told the audience that one of the most fulfilling parts of life is to "reach out and help someone along the way."
He said more people must do this to cut into the number of women each year who are victims of domestic violence. He chided men who are unable to control their emotions.
"It's truly not a manly thing to do," he said.
There was also one surprise speaker, who came to deliver the message of the offender who is seeking redemption. Dez Bryant, famously charged with striking his mother, apologized to the crowd for his actions and swore to them that he was never going to fail again. His rehabilitation seems to be proceeding well.
A couple of comments on Twitter also put troubled player Josh Brent at the rally, apparently with Bryant. He did not speak to anyone, but may be trying to do a little work on his image as well. It also indicates that his teammates are still standing by him as he faces the consequences of his DUI homicide charges.
Bryant also talked a little bit of football to some reporters after the rally. He responded to comments made by Tim Brown during a Dallas area radio interview where Brown stated he was worried about Bryant's health due to his playing like a "kamikaze". Bryant refused to let those kinds of thoughts limit him.
"That's just how I play. That's my type of game. That's my style of play. I'm going to keep playing that way. I don't think about injuries. I just go out there and play."
Brandon Carr attended as well, although he was not quoted as having spoken publicly. In his own comments to reporters covering the rally, he did indicate that this is just a part of what he wants to do in Dallas as his way to give back to the community. He was also involved in activities like this in Kansas City, but, although he initially tried to be nice talking about his former home, he admitted that there are advantages to being in Dallas.
"No offense, but Dallas, it's the Big D. This is it right here.
"I love that because it gives me the opportunity where I have the platform to do anything in the community and this is Phase One for what I have planned for reaching out and giving back to my community. Between Dallas and Kansas City it's night and day. It's a bigger city, a bigger market."
It's a reminder that life goes on outside of football for the men of the NFL that entertain us. A glimpse into the fact that there are more important things to them and to us than who scores the most points on Sunday afternoons in the fall.
And a reminder that the Cowboys are still the destination of choice for many, for a variety of reasons.