When the clock finally ran down, and the New Orleans Saints were crowned the winners of Super Bowl XLIV, the crowd went wild and most people cheered that the underdog team had carried the day. As the enchanted spectators started dancing in the confetti-infested dome, one picture from the memorable game stood out Drew Brees holding his one-year-old son Baylen. Many of us might not have seen this happen, but according to a New York Times writer, the most unforgettable part of the night was Baylen Brees, wearing headphones, trying to catch confetti and looking awed but secure in his father’s arms. The reporter went on to say that the headphones on his son (which helped muffle the noise on the one year old’s tiny ears) is what stole hearts. Brees made that happen, which is what parenting is about.
We all love Cinderella stories, and when we see our beloved athletes doing these charming things, we tend to idolize them. Then we set a new standard for athletes and want them to do all these little beautiful things. As time goes by, these sportsmen start winning endorsements because fans love them, and their conduct off the field becomes almost as important as their talents on the field.
But what happens when they err? Their images become tarnished, and their careers hang in the balance.
Tiger Woods is a textbook example. As the world’s No. 1 golfer, Woods was a perfect role model for many people before his scandalous acts with a string of women came to light. He interviewed with a few high-profile magazines about how one can become a better father. Golf Digest even went as far as giving Obama 10 tips he could learn from Woods. How he was able to convince the public that he was holier than most men remains unknown.
His current absence from the theater of champions is a big loss. And he is merely representative of other athletes who have been caught in similar acts, including the likes of Kobe Bryant and John Terry. A former player in the English national soccer team, Terry was dropped from the captaincy because he had an affair with his teammate’s ex-girlfriend. In the run-up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Terry’s affair distracted from his soccer skills, costing the national team a number of fans.
Infidelity is a bad thing not only for moral reasons, but also for the integrity of the game. But should we focus on these athletes personal lives so much that we lose sight of the reason why they are there? When Woods sinks an eagle, when Bryant makes a dunk, or when Terry scores a hat-trick to shut out Arsenal in the waning minutes of overtime, they elicit joy from the spectators. They make the special moments that we store in our memories. In short, they give us new reasons to be happy and laugh.
By admonishing these athletes when they err, we are doing more harm than good. The only good that comes out is a ‘check-up” test for other athletes to get their acts together. This benefit is short-lived, however, as we have seen one famous figure after another coming up with a cruder way to cheat on their significant others.
Demonizing these personalities is not without consequences. One of them includes missing out on epic plays. Another overlooked factor is the economic fallout from such actions. When the Oprah of golf is missing, TV ratings sink, golf is no longer a valuable commodity and Nike commercials are no longer something to write home about. And when we miss out on some of these commercials, we lose the beautiful moments we could have laughed about while getting paninis at Hillside Caf.
As much as infidelity is bad, carrying these scandals to preposterous levels is not beneficial. We might get a few laughs from making John Terry or Tiger Woods jokes, but they get old. And when the season starts again, we have ruined these sports figures’ careers and are left to wonder: When will we see the remarkable displays of ability we admired during the previous season?
Kipsat is a member of
the class of 2012.