Heroism in sports is a mirage. In an age of doping, cheating and lying, what seems too good to be true is now being revealed as such. Gone are the days of believability and naivety among your favorite stars, and questions marks and asterisks now reign supreme.
2013 has largely been chaotic and calamitic, producing endless gut-twisting stories.
In January, in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey, the largely altruistic Lance Armstrong admitted that he had been doping through his career. Armstrong until recently seemed like sports greatest humanitarian, due to the initiatives he put his face on. Now those initiatives seem jaded. Armstrong had gone from one of sports most most loved, to most hated figures; something that seemed impossible just a handful of years ago.
Armstrong’s story, although filled with lies and deception, isn’t necessarily the worst.
Notre Dame college football player Manti Te’o captured national attention for his play after the death of his grandmother and girlfriend, which was said to have tragically happened mere hours apart before one of Te’o’s best games of his career. The story was picked up by major magazines including Sports Illustrated and sympathy regarding the athletes amazing performances through grief became public. The story was amazing, but utterly false. While Te’o’s grandma had passed, the story behind his girlfriend was greatly exaggerated, and as it turned out she was made up, with Te’o being allegedly deceived. He had gone from hero to zero in a matter of hours.
Now Oscar Pistorius, aptly named Blade Runner for his prosthetic legs and becoming the first double leg amputee to to compete the Olympics, has been arrested for murder this week. Pistorius was about as good as a story gets. He showed that athletes can overcome limitations no matter how severe. Now that message is clouded and he has blood on his hands. Pistorius was going to become one of the most famous disabled athletes ever; but now instead of being remembered for triumph, darkness will always surround his legacy. He will not be remembered for overcoming the odds, but instead for shooting his girlfriend in cold blood.
How are we supposed to believe in our favorite athletes now? These three examples, ranging in levels of severity, are all extremely disheartening. We now are in a time of false idols. The list didn’t start with these three, nor will it end. Name a sport and greatness is shaded. Baseball? Barry Bonds. Football? O.J Simpson. Basketball? Tim Donaghy.
There are hundreds of examples.
Who do we believe in now?