Stop with blaming the millennials

Millennials have become America’s punching bag. Whenever something bad happens or goes away, my generation is always somehow to blame. So far, we’ve been accused of destroying the wine industry, the diamond industry, napkin companies, breakfast cereals, bars of soap, gymnasiums, grocery stores, chain restaurants like Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, the idea of home ownership and the idea of marriage.

That’s a lot of things to ruin in a short period of time, but I think those last two have been going downhill long before we arrived on the scene.

This rampant blame game has transferred over to the world of sports as well. We’ve been told that we are helping cause the decline in golf course use and the end of the boom of running events.

Other accusations are that we’ve changed the NFL, NHL and NBA for the worse and both baseball and the Olympics are falling in popularity due to our disinterest.

Again, I never knew my friends and I were that powerful. I wish I’d known this sooner. My college days could’ve been a lot more productive.

As bizarre as some of these statements are, we reached the peak of absurdity last week when Detroit Free Press columnist Steve Windsor typed an absolute gem where he ranted how snacks are ruining youth sports.

He didn’t outright blame us for anything, but he somehow came to the conclusion that snacks at our games were a source of entitlement and making us all “soft.”

Huh? For the longest time, I had heard that the participation trophies we earned as kids were causing the downfall of society. It turns out it was the snacks we were sometimes served. Well I’m glad I found this out now before I bought my potential future kid a Gatorade after his or her basketball game.

After skimming through Windsor’s magnificent piece, I decided that I needed to write a reply to this. However, instead of yelling angrily at the clouds like Windsor did, I’m not going to act like a lunatic. My reply is more of an explanation and it’s that millennials aren’t ruining anything, especially sports.

Let’s start with golf courses. I love Greywalls and Heritage courses at the Marquette Golf Club and I think they’re two of the best courses I’ve seen.

One of the reasons I like them is that compared to some I’ve seen in Minneapolis, they’re fairly reasonable. However, the great majority of courses I’ve seen are too expensive to play on and you’d spend most of your day lugging clubs around for hours wishing you were Tiger Woods — in his prime, not where he is now. It’s not worth the cash trying to live that fantasy.

As far as running goes, a story by the Wall Street Journal from a year ago said that participation in running events dropped slightly from 35 percent of finishers in 2014 to 33 percent in 2015.

It’s not like we hate events like marathons, though. I have three friends who do it regularly. We just as a whole would rather run with friends or get in shape in other ways like with bicycling or yoga. Just drive around Marquette and you can see that we’re definitely not a generation that sits around.

In regard to the four major sports, is there anything in particular wrong with them? A year ago, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver blamed “millennial culture” for his team’s lack of success and that we have difficulties dealing with setbacks.

First of all, that’s not true, and secondly, the NBA is primarily made up of my generation and some of those millennial squads are quite successful, like Golden State. Call me skeptical, but I don’t think the problem with the Suns was culture. It was more so because of a lack of talent.

Baseball has been declining since the 1980s and that’s when my generation started, so we can’t be blamed for that.

The sport is still fun and going to live games with friends can be a blast. I went to Target Field in Minneapolis a month ago and although the Twins got shelled, I enjoyed myself.

Baseball has flaws, with the largest being the absurd length of games. I used to watch games all the time growing up, but now I can only watch a few innings before I want to do something else, like go outside.

It’s not just my generation who feels this way, either. Very few people I know can actually watch a full game on TV unless they have a vested interest in it or it’s the World Series.

We can’t be criticized for this problem if it was established long before we showed up.

That we’ve “wussified” football is another one of my favorites. I guess to some people making the game safer where players aren’t suffering from concussions on a constant basis is a terrible idea. A lot of parents are keeping their kids from playing football these days or the kids themselves are deciding not to play.

I love football, but I don’t blame them for not taking part in it. If you’re talented and lucky enough to make it to the pros, the odds are you’re going to end up with a permanent injury or memory issues. Sometimes you can end up with that even sooner.

My generation is now weighing the costs and benefits of playing football, and for some of us, it’s just not worth it. When you think about it, can you blame us?

Finally, let’s get down to issue that gets brought up the most — participation trophies (or snacks if you’re Windsor).

I get why people hate the idea, but guess what? We hate them too! I have trophies at my parents’ house, some of which I won and a few I got for showing up. Naturally, I take more pride in the former rather than the latter.

I understand the concept behind it, though. You want kids to feel good even after they failed miserably or their team got blown out. I even think it can be beneficial during the younger years like kindergarten or first grade, but after that, it should stop because it loses its effect.

Kids aren’t dumb. They know that the awards are meaningless. Also, we didn’t ask for these trophies. We got them from our authority figures. How can we be blamed for something that we never wanted in the first place?

This also works with the snack debate. When I played baseball, we got drinks after games and apple and-or orange slices during it, but we didn’t ask for them. Here’s the real shocker, though — even though we got them, society hasn’t crumbled because of it.

So stop punching at my generation. We haven’t really changed anything in sports because we’re not in any place of power. Once we are, feel free to resume hitting us.

For now, though, just treat millennials like a stress ball. Get frustrated for a minute, let it go and move on.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is