Turnovers: A Year in Sports Hubris

Featured, Sports — By on October 15, 2010 at 8:00 am

I grew up in an era of great sports athletes. Bo Jackson. Magic Johnson. Wayne Gretzky. These were my childhood idols. As young boy living in Los Angeles, I was given the privilege of viewing some of the most dynamic athleticism in sports history. More importantly I maintained a naivety during these boyhood years. Most pedestals endured throughout my childhood.

Before tuning this piece out and saying, “Michael, you’re just waxing nostalgic.” This is not a rant on the good ole days. Our 24/7 sports news media cycle is an amazing phenomenon. Since we can know what is really going on in the lives of athletes, we do. If it’s sensational or absurd, it’s news. The more private and humiliating in nature the better. People consume it like a bag of chips. I am just as guilty as anyone else, but the backlash on this is an unfortunate breakdown of respect for more than just talent on the field, the court and the ice.

I can only imagine the skeletons in the closets of these idols. Magic’s bout with HIV gave me the first glimpse behind the mysterious curtain of celebrity. His sexual prowess earned him the humiliation and rejection of the 1990s paranoia over this unknown emerging enemy – AIDS. Clearly his behavior brought the illness upon himself, but I enjoyed those title runs with the misguided notion that Magic was as good a guy off the court as he was on it. Regarding Bo and Wayne, I had no reason to doubt their character and their pedestals remained intact. (Editor’s Note: Chad Gibbs would hang me if we ever denigrated Bo Jackson, but Gretzky was involved in a gambling scandal.)

Now that I am a father, I am not so ignorant and I am somewhat saddened that my son will not have this ability to envision athletes as more than just physical specimens of human strength and agility.

This year has been one of the more remarkable in sporting history for its corrective nature. Turnovers seem to be the theme. Fumbles. Interceptions. Strike outs. Losses. Not on the scale of scoreboards and standings, but on the most important scoreboard of life.

Just to state a few of many such cases, there have been a slew of immoral exposés in the sports media. Whether it is sexual deviance (Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre) or awards stripped (Reggie Bush), these men have been exposed. Gratuitous coverage and graphic details have shredded images in an epic fashion. One has to question the integrity and fidelity of each of these superstars.

And then there’s LeBron James. His marred image is distinct this year. He’s not guilty of immoral behavior in the public eye, but he’s guilty of something far more troublesome for many sports fans. His humiliation of an entire city has merited him the hatred of virtually the whole country outside of Miami. His Decision 2010 show on ESPN crushed the marketability of his billion dollar dream. I have more respect for LeBron’s turnover and hubris simply becasuse it was original, and I believe he learned a valuable lesson: ”Never bite the hand that feeds you.” Especially when it is your home state. Bad call Bron.

The year of sporting news in 2010 will teach us many things about ourselves as people. Temptation is real. Turnovers happen. Images rise and fall and rise again. I pray for a revival of sporting character in 2011, but I am not going to hold my breath. The many lessons of 2010 illustrate sports and corruption have embraced. Celebrity and immorality are comfortable bedfellows.

There is a striking lesson for me as a father. I hope to replace these sordid figures and be the hero in my son’s eyes. It is a challenge I eagerly face and a game that is far greater than that which is televised.

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