Terrell Owens is in love with himself and will have everyone and anyone listen to him say it. Chad Ochocinco can’t get enough of his own self-promotion. Brett Favre loves the spotlight more than the spot loves the light. In a nutshell, once we form an opinion of an athlete, everything he does after the fact just seems to validate whatever opinion we have of him.
Over the weekend, the movie Shutter Island was on and there was an incredible dialogue scene between Teddy Daniels and Rachel Solando in which she explains what happens once you have been diagnosed as being crazy: “[…] People tell the world you’re crazy and all your protests to the contrary just confirm what they’re saying […] Once you’re declared insane, and anything you do is called part of that insanity. Reasonable protests are denial. Valid fears paranoia”.
Solando just described the roller coaster ride that players enjoy in professional sports. Fans and the media are the respected psychiatrists that determine the level of sanity of our patients, which in this case happen to be the athletes.
Lest we forget, this does not only apply negatively; certain athletes enjoy a reverence that others will never obtain despite what their actions are. For instance, Michael Jordan (much like Michael Jackson by the way) has captured the imagination of many fans in different age groups and turned them essentially into a bunch of children willing to believe anything he says.
This might sound like an exaggeration, but does anyone remember the case of the woman trying to extort Jordan a few years ago over a child that could have been his? Lost in all the hoopla was that MJ was a married man at the time. And yet, he never got the Tiger Woods treatment. Jordan was a god walking amongst men. Heck, he still is.
That’s why after MJ had one of the most fascinating and yet disparaging Hall of Fame speeches of all-time, we collectively left it alone after a few weeks. Mind you, imagine if it were Kobe Bryant up there taking shots at Jerry West or LeBron James saying “Pat Riley is here, I don’t know who invited him, because I didn’t”; we would have crucified them both and never allowed them to hear the end of it. But Jordan gets the proverbial pass.
Some might say that the Jordan case is isolated, but I would gladly bring exhibit B to the table: Tom Brady. He publicly mentioned his fondness for porn, had a child out of wedlock and than married a model. Sounds awesome right? Change Tom’s name for Shawn Kemp and all of a sudden the scenario is completely different. Or is it?
As fans, it is incredibly easy to at times think we identify with certain celebrities when the truth of the matter is we are often extremely far from the truth.
Some people in Toronto will have you believe that Tracy McGrady is an arrogant jerk with no sense of loyalty because he left the Raptors to play in Orlando (his hometown) for about twice the amount of money that the Raps were offering. Also, the same can be said about Vince Carter; he might not have given maximum effort in his last year and half in Toronto, but what about the years prior, when he was busy carrying the whole country of Canada? Should we ignore that as well?
At the end of the day, we are all entitled to our own opinions and thus can think what we want about players. I am not here to say that one individual is better than the next, but rather I think that far too often we get caught up in wanting to confirm an opinion that we have of someone as opposed to just observing things and actions for what they are instead of bulking them all together to obtained a flawed conclusion.
So was The Decision bad? Yes. Is LeBron James a horrible human being? I couldn’t tell you. What happened that night in Eagle, Colorado? No idea. Does that make Kobe Bryant the scum of the earth? I cannot say.
All things being equal, the most important thing is to always keep sight of what is actually in front of us, and not what we think is.
Let’s keep things into perspective.