Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Day Massacre: The Day We Realize Our Heroes Should Not Come From Sports

Just when you think you are numb to the craziness of sports, a story that doesn't even feel real happens.  Maybe the most inspirational story we have heard in the history of sports existed during this year's Olympic Games when double amputee runner Oscar Pistorius qualified for the South African 4 x 400 relay team.  Pistorius also qualified to enter the men's 400 meters.  This morning Pistorius' girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was fatally shot four times in his home.  The man they call "Blade Runner" is now being charged with murdering his girlfriend on Valentines Day.  There were early reports that the shooting may have been caused by Pistorius being startled by the incoming Steenkamp, thinking she was an intruder, but those reports have been shot down by police.

We try to make sense of everything as fans.  We make excuses for our heroes because we don't want to waste our time rooting for someone who, in the end, wasn't who we thought they were.  We don't want to know about the PEDs these athletes took.  We don't want to believe that they looked the other way when a child's life was in danger.  We ignore the fact that they are all married but are said to commit infidelities all the time.  We don't want the people we look up to to have the flaws of a regular man.  We want our heroes to be the perfection we see in our own eyes.

That is the problem with sports, they are human.  They make mistakes.  Some weren't raised to know the difference between right and wrong.  Others weren't given the discipline they needed growing up because they were already a superstar by the time they were fifteen.  Whatever the case may be, we should try to be more realistic.  We continue to turn a blind eye and we continue to get let down in the worst ways. 

Maybe it has to do with the increase we have in the media.  Athletes have been covered more now than they ever were.  Between sports talk radio, 24/7 sports networks, the thousands of websites dedicated to sports news, and of course Twitter, we are living in an age where secrets don't exist.  We love Twitter because now we can "follow" our favorite athletes and celebrities and get into exactly how they think, but there are downfalls to that.  Athletes have been known to make faux pas on the social media website.  Last year, two athletes were sent home for making disparaging remarks.  The issue causes people to question our heroes and the choices they make in that split second between typing out a thought and hitting the Tweet button.

Last month we found out after years of denial, Lance Armstrong has been lying to us the entire time.  What was worse is that he ruined people's lives in the process.  He would sue people into absolute submission and had no bones in regards to the fact that he was the one who was wrong.  This is a man that literally inspired a nation to fight.  At one point or another everyone has had a Livestrong bracelet.  The bracelet that says we as a nation will not back down to cancer.  Armstrong beat three (3!?!) different types of cancer only to come back and be better than when he left.  Was it improbable and should we have expected this?  Perhaps.  When it was all going on all we could think about was this American winning one of the hardest races ever created seven times in a row.  We thought he did it all on his own in a sport in which nobody was clean. 

The problem is now the legacy these sports figures leave behind.  Lance Armstrong will always be a liar and a cheat.  Joe Paterno will only be recognized for looking the other way.  Alex Rodriguez will be known as a smug guy who used drugs to get to the top.  Now, Oscar Pistorius will always be known as the double amputee murderer.  The man who everyone wanted so bad to be everything we could hope our heroes would be, did something so despicable that nothing will change our opinion on him.  He is a murderer no matter what we try to do to make it right.  Maybe it was because he thought she was a robber.  Maybe it was an accident.  Maybe the gun wasn't supposed to go off.  Be real people.  Maybe he is just a bad guy who was one of the many people who ends up killing their significant other.  Maybe we are the ones who are in wrong for expecting so much out of our heroes.  Maybe, just maybe, we need to figure out that our beloved athletes may not be the best people to look up to. 

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