I love sports. But I don’t necessarily love athletes. If it isn’t Tiger’s melodrama, it is Dwight Howard’s attempts to sue the mother of his child for posting pictures of their son on Twitter or his banning her from speaking his name (who does he think he is? Voldemort?!)
We build these people up to be everything that they aren’t. And then we watch in shock as they make every attempt to protect these fragile images that we’ve constructed based on some talent or skill that they possess. When will fans learn that being stellar on the court, field or golf course, doesn’t make you perfect? We continue to push these athletes as saints and then when they don’t confess all of their most private doings, we ask what they have to hide. The answer is…FLAWS. They’re human. Winning golf championships and dunk contests doesn’t strip them of their humanness or shield them from the same temptations and issues that haunt the rest of us.
I can’t be sure what compels such deep feelings of personal and emotional attachment to athletes but I am almost certain that it centers on the idea of shared glory, which is an important part of being a fan. When we take on a team, we start to call their triumphs (and failures) our own. We start to invest our time and energy in them, rooting them on, sending up prayers that a shot goes in at the buzzer. We start to invest money, buying red polos and golf clubs, buying tickets to games.
Sports draw us in deep. So deep that when the ball is in the air and time is ticking off the clock, it becomes hard to distinguish our triumphs and failures from theirs. And perhaps, when the final buzzer sounds, this emotional attachment doesn’t end. Perhaps in some twisted way, we fail to distinguish their personal issues from our own. Or perhaps we feel that after giving an athlete so much (money, support, time, etc) they owe us the truth and should give us the whole story.
They don’t owe us shit. Dwight Howard isn’t paying my bills. Neither is Tiger Woods. They never promised us a damned thing outside of entertainment. I shudder when I consider what the world would be like if folks would demand the same loyalty and honesty from the people in their lives…or maybe from politicians. What’s up on that Healthcare Reform?