"Just win, baby."
We've all heard those words, famously spoken by the late Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders. The Hall of Famer's phrase was adopted by other teams across all sports, in one form or another, but the message was always quite clear: win at any and all costs.
That ideology has allowed sports fans of all ages to root for people whom they would normally deplore. Few fans have a problem cheering on a curmudgeon so long as he produces on the field, the court, the rink
But at what point is a line drawn? How far can an athlete go before supporters will turn on him or her? Does it take the murder accusations levied against former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez? How about domestic violence, which is all too common with professional athletes?
Do morals even have a place in sports, or is it "just win, baby?" How much can we take before it's too much to bear? Is there a line between winning and integrity that most people can clearly define?
Pro athletics have seen a huge number of players across all sports caught with recreational drugs.
While it was a well-established belief that Darryl Strawberry played a large portion of his MLB career under the influence of many narcotics, did anyone bash him while he was still bashing pitches into the seats at stadiums?
Many have forgiven Dany Heatley or simply forgotten his vehicular homicide conviction from 2003 and the Minnesota Wild winger has continued a solid NHL career. Does a tragic accident make him a bad person? No, not necessarily, but does he face the same judgment on a daily basis that an average Joe would under the same circumstances?
The same goes for the myriad athletes who have faced and been convicted of DUI charges. Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard -- already on probation for assaulting a police officer in Nebraska, where he played college football -- is the latest to face drunk-driving charges.
But all too often, a player can get back on the field and produce and all will be forgiven.
You see these issues get pushed aside as long as the production continues. Forgive, forget, move on.
Crimes aren't the only thing that can cause a fan to turn on players, but even on-field issues can split supporters.
Who can argue that Major League Baseball was as entertaining as ever while a sizable chunk of the game's stars were using performance-enhancing drugs? Is that too far or is it simply looking for an edge while the risk of being caught is low?
But somehow, Tim Tebow gets more than anyone's fair share of criticism for his lifestyle. The quarterback -- who signed with the Patriots earlier this year -- is a constant target for ridicule for his religious beliefs and his good-boy image. Look, I'm not a fan of his by any stretch. But criticize him for his lack of abilities on the football field, not for his inability to find trouble off of it.
Not everyone out there is an alcoholic, a drug abuser, a murderer, abusive of their spouse, or involved with criminal activity. But as long as you put up numbers, we're willing to accept those major flaws, at least for a while.
In a sense, it goes to show that the "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing" mentality is still alive and well in the world of sports. But maybe, just maybe, with the recent allegations against Hernandez, fans will take a closer look at who they're cheering for.