Friday, February 22, 2013

Scandals keep sports stars from being heroes, role models

by Brian Bruns, Columnist    
     The Miami New Times broke news in late January that a Miami clinic was peddling performance-enhancing drugs (PED) to some big name professional athletes.
    Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees, is the biggest name on the list.
    Rodriguez stands to lose millions of dollars based on agreements he signed with the New York Yankees after already admitting to using PEDs in a 2009 press conference.
    The sad thing is this story is nothing new. The narrative of the disgraced athlete has become commonplace and only continues to remind society that athletes are not heroes.
    Sometimes they’re not even good people, but that doesn’t stop many of us, this writer included, from respecting and often idolizing them for their amazing accomplishments.
    Part of our idolization of athletes stems from the value we place on entertainment in our culture. We spend more money keeping ourselves entertained than any other country in the world.
    Their personal stories of triumph or overcoming tragedy also mesmerize us.
    Lance Armstrong is a great example. A cancer survivor and founder of the cancer support foundation Livestrong, Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France titles. We wanted desperately to believe his story was true.
    Armstrong was stripped of those titles and banned from cycling due to his use of performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong now faces multi-million dollar lawsuits from every direction and will likely owe the federal government millions as well.
    A more recent story is that of Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius was one of the famed athletes of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. A double amputee since age 11, he made history and headlines just for showing up. Blade Runner, as he is called, is considered one of the greatest Paralympians in the world.
    Pistorius now faces murder charges in South Africa after authorities allege he shot his girlfriend four times through a bathroom door in their house. 
    The list goes on and on.
    Professional athletes are capable of things that 99 percent of us are not. It’s hard not to be in awe of someone who can run faster, jump higher or lift more than we could ever dream.
    However, we take it too far when we assume these physically exceptional human beings are exceptional in all aspects of their lives.
    What we’re really looking for are the sports heroes our parents grew up with. More accurately, we want our own sports heroes to mirror the perception we have of our parents’ heroes.We want their character to be as solid as their performance is on the field.
    The only thing we can assume about great athletes is that they’re simply just that, great athletes. We can’t assume for a second that Most Valuable Player translates at all into Most Valuable Person.

            Brian Bruns is a father, a husband and a U.S. Army veteran. Sarcasm, wit and a good cup of coffee are all keys to his success. He can usually be spotted Thursday night working for Mast TV’s News @Nine or Friday nights hosting Lutes, Listen Up! on LASR.