By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.Com
It is always nice to see athletes display class (whatever class is), show respect to their opponents, say and do the right things, display eloquence as well as charisma most, if not all the time. To expect athletes to display most of these traits are unrealistic. Many times, I see headlines about Usain Bolt responding to questions that are non-track related and the reporter made it out to seem as if it was coming from a well-learned and experienced person from that particular field.
In fact, Bolt like many of us was just giving an opinion and nothing else. He could be right as well as he could be wrong. More often than not, the media and others expect athletes earning millions of dollar to be versed on current events and maintain impeccable behaviour.
Many athletes area of specialty is in the sport they are participating and are no more well-read than any other person within a normal bell curve population. Of course, the media will make things seem otherwise. Many are smart, many are not so smart and some fall below the not so smart line. I think if we look at things with this perspective in mind we will be better able to understand the dumb decisions and actions athletes sometimes make.
I look on the Ray Rice situation and see the publicity and outrage it caused. This happens all the time and I cannot see the difference between a police officer beating a woman because she pushed him and a man hitting his woman because she spit in his face. Both to me are dastardly wrong; yet silence on one and national condemnation for the other. I know one is a well-paid athlete but the other is a police officer; why the lack of publicity and moral outrage? One is trained to serve and protect the other is trained to play a brutal game. Is the salary the reason for the difference in coverage and outrage? Why should we expect entertainers to be the moral and ethical bearers for a society? I see politician commit infidelity and forgiveness was given quicker than a popular athlete doing the same thing.
I remember Mayor Giuliani of New York going to the press to tell them that he was leaving his wife for a girlfriend and there was no moral outrage. Yet, when Tiger Woods was exposed with sleeping with multiple women it was different. Sponsors dropped Tiger like a lifeless stone.
Top athletes make a lot of money from endorsements so image is very important but so do politicians with voters. So why the difference in how the media portray one as against the other. Athletes’ decisions mainly affect their family, friends and themselves while politician decisions affect a whole community or society. Why not the harsher treatment or standard for politicians? In my view, it comes down to hero-worshipping and the need for the media to get coverage. People have a tendency to look up to performers and see them as hero. Most performers if not all, like the average person, are flawed individuals. Some are more flawed than the average person, because they are one-dimensional.
The only thing or world they can control and do well in is the industry in which they ply their talent. Someone running a hundred meter in less than 10 seconds or scoring goals most will never be able to, or hit a ball farther and harder than most or shoot a basketball while spinning 360 degrees and score, show extraordinary talent. This should not make them a person to look up to for life learning lessons or the proper way to behave. We have seen many religious leaders who are trained and expected to maintain high moral and ethical standard, fall short. If these men and women fail the congregation they are supposed to lead and offer counselling advise why should we be shocked when athletes fail to live up to certain moral and ethical standard?
The pedestal athletes are put on causes the general fan to be shocked when flaws are exposed. Some of the critics have the very same, if not more flaws, but they are the first to crucify an athlete. I remember the Commonwealth games when Bolt was asked a question he looked up to the cloudy sky and the next thing we know there was media firestorm about Bolt criticizing the Commonwealth games. It is as if Bolt’s opinion whether true or false, wrong or right, should have some bearing on how we should perceive the game. I hope parents see athletes as humans who will make mistakes, sometimes life changing ones or simple ones and use it as training or learning tool for their children.
We should not be looking to strangers to set ethical and moral standards for our children. Whether we like it or not, Usain Bolt, Messi, Ronaldo, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Asafa Powell, Yohan Blake or any other known performers in the entertainment field are only known by the majority because of their performances. Their personal and private life is something some of them have a hard time controlling and dominating the way they dominate a game or competition. Therefore, save the outrage when they make decisions or mistakes all or some of us make in our publicity free life. After all we should be looking at ourselves to set moral and ethical standards and never be surprise or overly aghast when our favourite or not so favourite athlete makes a mistake or dumb decision.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.