Athletes Are Not Demi-Gods

What is it what and expect from our athletes?

We want them to care more about their sport then we do.  We want them to care more about their own careers then we do.  We want them to be a morally upstanding at all times in all ways.  We want them to stay young forever.  Basically, we want them to be the best possible version of ourselves that we can think of on our best day.

We hold them to these ridiculous codes of behavior because we know ourselves too well and know we will never be this version of ourselves.  So, we look to them as some type of divine hero.    From the time they are sophomores in high school we start to build them to these demi-gods we need in our lives.

We constantly mistake great skill and/intelligence with morality and god-like stature.  We are forever looking for the next great man (or woman) to lead us to…something better than what we have.  We place these people on pedestals impossible for any human to stay on top of and then become shocked and disappointed when they act like the humans they are selfish, lazy, greedy, etc.

You would think OJ Simpson would have taught sports fans that we don’t know these people.  We barely know the people we work with on a daily basis.  No amount of television exposure, Twitter and Facebook posts, etc. is going to truly let you into the heart and mind of an athlete.  Yet, we continuously build legends around athletes.  Then we expect the athlete to live up to this myth they did not create, and when they don’t we get angry at them.

Anyone with the discipline and drive to make himself the best in the world at his sport is the same person who will arrogantly screw over anyone and everyone whom he sees as getting in his way.  Those traits are not mutually exclusive, they are tied to each other at the core of who that person is.  Do you have to be a prick to be a great athlete?  No, but it helps.

To become truly great at something is a selfish thing.  The hours of work and practice you must put in means you can’t be a good boyfriend, husband, or father.  Or a good son, nephew, or friend for that matter.  You are willingly sacrificing anything more than superficial relationships for this one thing.  That is neither good nor bad, it just is.  However, it should come as no shock or take a huge stretch of the imagination to see how this selfishness manifests itself in malignant ways.

The focus and the drive to become the best can become an obsession or a belief that only you deserve this greatness and that leads to choices that are immoral if not illegal.  If you believe that this greatness you seek is something you deserve or is your destiny, what may you become capable of to reach that goal?  Doesn’t any decision, no matter how malevolent, to reach your goal then become justified?

We as fans contribute to this feeling of entitlement of greatness.  We are the ones who have made college recruiting main stream income revenue for ESPN, Rivals, and all the rest.  Why do fans of schools in North Carolina need to know the name of some high school sophomore in Wisconsin?  The more important question, is how does that notoriety and adulation shape who that sophomore is going to become?

The sports world has many problems.  If we fans would stop fertilizing the ground and creating conditions for new ones to develop, we would all be much better for it.

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