PRESIDENT, WINSTON COMMUNICATIONS
I’m a big sports fan.
I grew up in the day when a baseball card was a precious possession, when two Willie Mays cards could get you a Tom Tresh, a Whitey Ford, and perhaps a Phil Linz thrown in for good measure. These guys – all athletes – were my boyhood heroes.
Boyhood? Hell, I cried on the day in 1979 when Yankee catcher Thurman Munson died in an airplane crash. And the day in 1995 when Mickey Mantle – my No. 1 idol, as a boy in New York – died? I still get choked up thinking about that day.
Now that I no longer flip baseball cards, I can ask the question: Are we unfair to expect more of our athletic heroes than we expect of anyone else, when it comes to adult behavior? Yes! They may be heroes on the field. But that in no way makes them heroes as human beings.
But, on the other hand, are we unrealistic to expect some type of heightened awareness, from these people, some kind of clue that they get it…that they are in the public eye in a 24/7 media world? No…I don’t think that’s unrealistic! We should expect that athletes – and movie stars, etc. – have a bit of a heightened awareness that whatever they say or do is open fodder for the rest of us.
Where am I going with this? I’m going “Hope Solo.” Hope Solo is the star goalie for the U.S. women’s soccer team. I love soccer. I’ve loved it ever since I spent my younger days hitch-hiking around Europe with a backpack, and watching – and playing – soccer whenever I could.
Hope Solo and her husband (a former professional athlete) were recently pulled over by a Seattle policeman in the wee hours of the morning. Her husband was charged with DUI. And Solo was also inebriated, and apparently verbally-abusive to the policeman.
Now, coincidentally, the U.S. women’s soccer team starts play in the World Cup – the world championship of soccer – this spring. And Solo, perhaps the best U.S. women’s goalie ever, has been suspended by the team…with practice for the World Cup about to start.
Which begs the question: Couldn’t she have laid off the liquor – at least in the car – for a few more months? Didn’t she have any awareness that she was hurting her team, and her teammates? And the millions of soccer fans in this country? Couldn’t she and her husband just have gotten drunk at home, instead of driving around in the care after drinking too much?
Hope Solo, of course, is just the latest in a long line of athletes who have made fools of themselves in public. Baseball’s Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez. Just recently, football’s Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Of course, golf’s ferocious lady-prowler, Tiger Woods. And too many others to name here.
Each of these people had wonderful reputations. Not only as great athletes, but as pretty good people. And each of them has destroyed that reputation.
A good reputation is not like a Maserati; it’s an intangible. And, of course, as noted earlier, athletes are people, too…with the same flaws (only magnified by the media). And it is not realistic at all to expect more from them than we expect from ourselves.
But, on the other hand, a reputation is a terrible thing to waste.
And one thing’s for sure. The baseball cards of Marc McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez are worth a lot less than before.