Chum in the water

8 11 2007

There seems to be a very large gap with the expectations we set for our professional athletes in Australia, and the reality that inevitably follows.

Ben Cousins - disgraced drug user or a victim of preciptious action?With the relevations at the end of last season painting the Hawthorn FC in a not-too-favourable light, earlier in the season the Alan Didak mess (a Collingwood footballer who found himself associated with an alleged murderer) and then at the end of the season the issues clouding both the Chris Mainwarring & Ben Cousins situations, surely you’d think that it would have resulted in the dawn of a new realization in Australia: Athletes aren’t necessarily role models.

The ensuing storm has subsided somewhat, and sure, some athletes are deserving of being held in high esteem… but as far as foibles go, the vast majority of sports people aren’t a lot different from the rest of the general populace.

There’s probably nothing new in this: it’s most likely been a reality for as long as pro-sports have been around. However, the private lives of our sports heroes are less sacrosanct than they were 40 years ago. And within those lives, the media are more likely to report on the lawlessness than the largesse. Simply a fact of operating.

Sex sells? So does schadenfreude (satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune), and it’s never greater than when the fall is from the highest point.
Add to the mix: sports are a far more financially lucrative undertaking than they were even ten years ago. It’s inevitable that some young men with lots of time & money on their hands will find themselves doing things that those with better judgment might avoid.

So… back to Australia and the AFL footballers who were outed. The story got quashed fairly quickly – legal action from the AFL meant that the names remained in the public domain for only a very short time. But whilst there seemed to be a race amongst politiciansIs the system working? and game executives as to who could create the best sound-bite on ‘personal liberties’, there was a large section of the populace who wanted nothing more than to have those in question punished, and punished now – regardless of the legalities involved. Civil liberties be damned.

In Australia, there’s a real gap in the expectations the general public have on their sports-heroes, and the reality of what’s actually going on. This is something the world at large has experienced over the last few decades, and it’s something that is only just being begun to be realized, at least by the public in general, in Australia. The fury that was expressed over this… well, it was rather surprising. This anger seems to be more a somewhat-naïve reaction over the ruination of childhood dreams and fantasies, rather than truly at 3 young men who made errors in life, and are trying to move on.

What does this mean for sport in general? Well, on a global level it’s interesting to see that all sports are headed down the same path, and the world’s media enthusiastically trots along behind, gleefully pointing at the messes made along the way.

In Australia we witnessed drug scandals in both the AFL & the NRL (Australia’s leading rugby league).
In England we have the jewel of Premier League soccer – Manchester United embroiled in scandal post Christiano Ronaldo’s orgy.
Japan’s leading Sumo wrestler is suffering from depression, and the sport is struggling to deal with anything remotely resembling sensitivity. Same country – soccer star Naoya Kikuchi is sacked by his team for having sex with a minor. Daiki Kameda & the entire Kameda family are suspended from participating in boxing, after the 18 year old Kameda made a total farce of his title-shot bout against Daisuke Naito – turning it into a veritable WWE event.Scumbag?
The US is eagerly awaiting the sentencing of Michael Vick. We all enthusiastically watched the New York Knicks/Isiah Thomas scandal with voyeuristic abandon. We all watch earnestly to see if OJ Simpson may finally go to jail.
Chum in the water.

If nothing else, that’s something that these people can give to society: athletes are people, just like you & I – all capable of the same poor judgment… and actions should have consequences, regardless of who you are.

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2 responses

8 11 2007
WWE » Chum in the water

[…] The Next Level wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt … aito – turning it into a veritable WWE event…. […]

8 11 2007

“the vast majority of sports people aren’t a lot different from the rest of the general populace” – with the exception that they have money, time on their hands and people around them willing to enable them in whatever it is they wish to be involved in. Time + money = opportunity.
This has always been the case with highly paid athletes, but in the modern world of instant communication (as well as gratification) it is reported almost before it happens.
Ty Cobb was one of the meanest, racist SOBs ever to play a major sport. Babe Ruth ate, drank and caroused with the best of them. These guys played in a time where it didn’t make the news and so got away with all sorts of behaviours that would be all over the tabloids today.
Sports take young men, often still in their teens, and places them in the world of adults with no training and no reality checks and places huge sums of money in their hands. They have little perspective or concept of what is right or wrong and no one to keep them in line.
It is no wonder that so many athletes go off the rails, but no less sad.

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