Are athletes judged and dealt with more harshly for their indiscretions and blatant crimes than the Average Joe? Are they scrutinized and seen as villains under the media’s microscope in a way that’s justified by those who condemn them?
If we’re honest about it, most people thrive on public scandal and it is evidenced by the way we were glued to our televisions during the O.J. trial. Of course, other sports heroes have caught our attention with scandals of varying degrees, like Kobe Bryant, Rae Carruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Nate Newton, Michael Vick, Tonya Harding, Mike Tyson, and most recently, Tiger Woods.
Scandals make for good sports bar banter and wildly heated debates. Among analysts and commentators it creates juicy, on-camera airtime. When one of our sports heroes goes astray, he is often cast as a villain. His (or her) fame is perverted, and their name dragged through the mud in every conceivable way.
Since the public eye is watching, it does appear larger than life. After all, we idolize our sports heroes and expect near perfection from them. When they fall short, we (and the media) scrutinize their actions, condemn, and self-righteously sit back and pronounce judgment.
Based on the severity of the crime, a few of our fallen sports heroes deserve to be behind bars and psychologically evaluated. Others, who have had marital indiscretions and possible addictions, are like anyone else in the “real” world. They need a strong dose of counseling and support to help them on the road to recovery. They need a hand up and a strong arm of love and support.
The REAL heroes are the ones who admit they’ve fallen and can’t get up without outside help. Through ongoing therapy and accountability, they regain their sense of balance, restore damaged relationships, and get back on the course or court, or whatever the field of play may be; they re-establish themselves as the hero they once were. They’ll forever drag their personal scandal behind them, but they use it as a springboard for a stronger and more courageous future.