Watt’s the Word?

Seeing through the haze of fame

As I watched Richard Sherman vacate CenturyLink Field in Seattle, I was painfully reminded of an unfortunate truth in sports.

Emotion comes in different shapes and sizes in sports. Sherman reminded us that raw emotion sells, even when it is unsportsmanlike in manner. What fans choose to see is hardly ever the truth when it comes to the athletes they prefer to think of as “idols.”

Former NBA star Charles Barkley said it best in a Nike Air commercial: “I am not a role model. I am not paid to be a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

It’s an ugly awakening to the purists who want to see the good in every athlete. There are exceptions to this rule; I’m not cynical enough to lay a blanket statement on athletes.

There’s a pain in realizing what you once believed in is a fallacy. It hurts your soul to realize these titans are not and will never be who you want them to be. It’s fine to call them heroes while they’re competing, but they are human, too.

It takes an uncommon ego to compete at the level professional athletes do. There is no off-switch to their ego. To be the best, you must know you’re the best. As much as I hate to admit it, Richard Sherman was doing what he is paid to do – to be the best.

It’s easy for me to say I would have reacted differently in his shoes. At my peak, I was no superstar, but I made a difference. Inside my head, I just attempted to remain calm and collected.

Outside of my mind, I attempted to be sportsmanlike. When I let out my emotions in an inappropriate manner, I sat down moments after and regretted it.

I was once given 200 push-ups by an assistant coach for swiping an opposing player with a wicked right hook to the back of the head (in my defense, the kid was mugging me underwater). I never reacted in that manner again.

My swim coach of 12 years taught me the life lesson that it doesn’t cost a thing to be nice to people. It doesn’t cost a thing to be classy, regardless of the result. People look fondly on those traits, even if they don’t make headlines.

I was not a professional athlete, nor will I ever be. It’s hard to say whether I’d feel above the law like so many of them unfortunately do, or if I’d get in drawn-out contract disputes because “I’m not getting what I deserve.”

There are athletes spattered around Ferris who exude that uncommon level of class or at the very least sincerity. They occur in every sport whether we care to acknowledge it or not.

Where fans lose sight of the line that separates the exceptions from the norms is when their examples of the good give them a false sense of security about the personalities of athletes.

I, too, am guilty of this.

We are all let down by people we assume are heroes. We, as fans, hold athletes to a standard that cannot always be met. It’s naïve to think the money, fame and competition doesn’t change them as humans.

Hope should be used sparingly when invested in athletes. The letdown is too painful to go through constantly. Love them for their skill, not for who they are, who they pretend to be, or who we expect them to be.