Thursday, May 29, 2008

On the Personal Lives of Athletes

I have to say that through the years, my interest in the personal lives of athletes has been an up-and-down affair. There have been periods of time where virtually any information about a famous athlete's personal life would interest me, only to be followed by periods of utter disinterest. As I've gotten older, the periods of fascination have been outpaced by the periods of not caring, but not to the point where I've stopped paying attention. What more concerns me now is when an alleged occurence has something to do with breaking the law. Then I care, because I consider lawbreaking to be a bit more newsworthy than whether someone is having an affair on his wife or drinking with young girls at a pool party.

I say that as a lead-in to this whole business surrounding Kobe Bryant supposedly, allegedly, perhaps, maybe, could be, might be, etc., etc., etc., cheating on his wife with a Laker Girl. A Laker Girl that just so happens to have the same first name as his wife. You know how all of this got started? A dirty site called The Dirty posted a "story" about a Laker girl named Vanessa leaving the Laker Girl team right before the playoffs and how a source of theirs told them the reason she left was because the Lakers were looking to cover the whole thing up.

What the fuck?

Not a week goes by and an actual mainstream, top-level site posts about it: Deadspin. Their timeline accurately depicts how a story with no substantial proof whatsoever can somehow find legs and run its way around the Internet to the browser windows and inboxes of the masses.

The question is, why are we fascinated? Why do we care? A.J. Daulerio over at Deadspin claims that this is news because of Kobe's past affair in Colorado and his subsequent painful, public apology. But is it? Is it really? Nobody seemed to care when Wilt Chamberlain was fucking every woman he saw 40 years ago. I guess it is news if the weather is, say, sunny and in the 80s 47 days in a row. You've still got to report the weather, right? Even if it's the same every day? So I guess he might have a point there, that a repeated, unsurprising occurence deserves mention, but then again, I don't think that your local newscast would spend so much time reporting on that mundane, same-every-day weather.

Instead of reporting what athletes do on the court, increasingly the focus has shifted to what they do off of it. Is it shocking that Pacman Jones "made it rain" at a strip club? That Matt Leinart had a party that involved BEER and GIRLS? That Charles Barkley gambles? That Alex Rodriguez was seen with a woman who was not his wife? I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point.

These people aren't role models. They just aren't. We think we know them because we craft their personalities for them while we root for them. We like to think that Marvin Harrison is a stand up guy and perfect humanitarian because he fits our mold of what we think that person is; the fact that he owns a bar and gets into fights outside of it and then his gun is used to shoot at someone never enters the picture and then shocks us when we hear about it.

The fact of the matter is that we don't know these people any better than we know the person that delivers our mail. Peyton Manning could be a psychotic choking rapist for all we know. While I think that Albert Pujols is a god amongst men, a living, walking, breathing saint in this world, he may turn out to be the worst person ever. We just don't know.

I should have known better when everything came crashing down for me, when Magic Johnson announced to the world that he was HIV positive. Magic Johnson? AIDS? What? He cheated on his wife? Say it ain't so! Not a beloved athlete!

The personal lives of athletes shouldn't shock us at all. Athletes are normal, regular people who just happen to be ridiculously gifted at a particular skill set that is enormously overvalued by society. Kobe Bryant may be the best basketball player on earth, but he's just a regular human being in every other way. Given the same amount of idol worship, money and fame, I don't know what kind of person I would be. I can guarantee you that I would not be the person I am now because I just don't think it would be possible. In fact, I think it's probably almost impossible to grow up in that kind of spotlight and be anywhere near what you or I would consider "normal."

I'd probably have an overinflated ego and enough arrogance to fill the Staples Center. I'd probably walk into every room thinking that everyone in there needed to do whatever I wished simply because of who I was. I imagine that that's the kind of life a lot of these athletes lead. I don't see how it makes sense to be shocked or even merely surprised that an athlete's personal life isn't going like we think it should. They live in a completely different world than 95% of regular society, and as such, they're going to act and talk differently than we do. It's just the way it is.

Maybe John Dvorak over at Fox News was on to something with his article yesterday that talked about how the Internet was basically making us all dumber by the minute. While I don't agree with everything in the article, the following section was apropo with regard to this whole Kobe mess:
These people eat up information from the Internet and they believe everything they read. They pass along gossip as fact. They fall for every hoax under the sun (especially the very old ones).

You wonder when some Nigerian e-mail scammer is going to fleece them. I have no idea what is going to happen when it dawns on this crowd that they are useless boneheads.

Very well said, in my opinion. As a useless bonehead, I'll be doing my best to focus my attention elsewhere from now on.

Deadspin: The Dirty Kobe Bryant Business
Fox News: Dvorak: The Internet Is Making Us Dumber


Anonymous said...

One of the best article's I've read in a long time.

You can make the same comparison to Bill Clinton and JFK. JFK was banging everyone @ the White House, Clinton gets one blow job and he get's impeached!!

I'm a HUGE Laker's and Kobe fan, and I could care less who he is banging, as long as he wears a Laker's jersey, I dont care.

ncsumatman said...

You do understand that the fact you wrote a blog entry on how this is a non issue only perpetuates the staying power of the topic.

For whatever reason, perhaps it's humanizing, society does care about these type of things, and for those who don't, you can always get energized and animated about those who do.