Monday, April 12, 2010

Death to the Athlete/Role-Model

I just read that the ratings for the final round of the Masters' tournament were up 36% from last year. The opening round ratings were up 47%. Why? Tiger Woods. Perhaps some of it was curiosity after all of his negative publicity. But in the end, Tiger will always bring in viewers.

I also just read a story entitled, "Mickelson is a feel good story at the Masters" that can be found here. The last line of the story reads, "And if you watched the tournament and saw the tears of joy with Phil and his family, you can't help but think there is justice in this world of ours." I could be wrong, but I think the "justice" Bill Scott was talking about was the fact that this "good guy" Mickelson beat out the louse Tiger Woods.

Can we, as a society, please stop trying to find our role models among professional athletes? Tiger Woods should mark the end of myth of the upright and civic-minded professional athlete. I am not saying that all athletes are scum, nor, God forbid, am I making any claims about Mickelson. I have nothing for compassion for him and his family and I give him the highest praise for an excellent tournament win. But lets not make him a civic hero or role-model. Lets call him what he is, an excellent golfer, and, in the same regard, Tiger Woods deserves the same treatment.

Why do we expect, or perhaps the better word would be hope, that those who entertain us in the world of sports are genuinely "good guys?" We certainly should not expect them to be good guys. Look at the evidence. In elementary school, the jocks were usually cruel to others, but were rewarded with popularity. In Jr. High and Highschool, they continued to pick on outcasts and were rewarded with more popularity and women. If they were good enough, they were rewarded with college scholarships, more women, special treatment from teachers and administration, and sometimes special perks from boosters. All this while continuing to act from time to time in a socially unacceptable manner. Finally, we give them multi-million dollar contracts, signing bonuses, lucrative endorsements, captivated television audiences, fame, fortune, and yes, more women. Yet, we expect that somehow their behavior will have changed? They have tested the boundaries, wondering when someone would hold them accountable for their bad behavior. Guess what? That day still has not come.

Tiger Woods disgraced himself in with his multiple affairs, yet what was his punishment? Some public lambasting and a 47% increase in television ratings. People still watch him. So, why do we continue to hope for an athlete/role-model? We, the general public, want to excuse ourselves for supporting such behavior by finding athletes worthy of the praise, adoration, and ridiculous amounts of money we lavish on them. We don't like giving these rewards to "bad guys." But lets be truthful, we still turn out to watch the Tiger Woods and Michael Vicks, the Kobe Bryants and the Ron Artests. We watch them not because they are "good guys" but because they are excellent athletes. As long as a society rewards bad behavior, is it any shock that those they reward continue to act badly?


  1. You're absolutely right that we (as a society) don't provide our athletes with the experiences that develop "good" character. Your observation that we continually "reward" them for "bad" behavior (and the subsequent results of that practice) is spot on. But I don't know that it's wrong for us to *want* our athletes to exhibit good character. Doesn't this hearken back to the days of ancient Greece when athletic excellence was just another discipline of virtue to be sought after and achieved? Wouldn't it be better if we strove (as a society) to help all of our gifted (athletes included)to develop good moral character and virtue?

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