CHICAGO, February 19, 2013 – If there’s one thing 2013 will be known for, it’s the fallen superstars. The athletes who transcend their sport by inspiring kids in the worst situations to work hard and then falling from grace faster than a meteor landing in a frozen Russian lake.
Nothing hurts sports fans more than their favorite superstar having his legacy crushed or worse, be convicted of a serious crime. 2013 has served as a stern reminder that great athletes shouldn’t be assumed to be great people.
The year started with the incredible story of a fearless Lance Armstrong being shattered into fine dust. The man, who not only denied accusations but also mercilessly prosecuted and destroyed his detractors, suddenly had his career swiped from under him.
Unfortunately, the worst loser in his saga was the sport of cycling. Try to name one of the last five Tour de France champions who hasn’t had his title stripped from him for using PEDs. The sport has no face, has no star power, and will quickly fade from America’s mind if something isn’t done soon.
The year continued with Alex Rodriguez (somewhat unsurprisingly) being linked to a clinician known for distributing PEDs like Deer Antler Spray to his clients. A-Rod previously confessed to using PEDs during his tenure with the Texas Rangers but furiously denied any allegations that his bad habit trickled into his days with the New York Yankees.
It turns out that the joke was on us, sports fans. While A-Rod is now futilely trying to pick up the pieces of his career one last time, everyone who ever supported him is somewhere between quiet disbelief and incapacitating outrage. Now he joins Lance Armstrong on the list of former sports icons that we never want to see again.
If all this weren’t bad enough, Oscar Pistorius recently cemented his head onto the Mount Rushmore of disgraced athletes along with Shoeless Joe Jackson, Armstrong, Rodriguez and, lest we forget, OJ Simpson, who not only hurt himself and the sport, which we can recover from, but who is also believed to be, in one way or another, though unproven, responsible for the deaths of Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown .
Horrible detail emerge with every passing day, but so far we know that Pistorius is the only suspect in a murder involving four bullets and a bloody cricket bat. Pistorius says he thought there was an intruder in the bathroom when he opened fire.
Pistorius is an icon in his home country, inspiring anyone who heard his story. How could you not love a man so focused and determined that he bull-rushed his way into Olympic sprinting without his legs? However, unless new, groundbreaking evidence emerges regarding the case, the man who was the toast of South Africa for so long will be in jail for many, many years.
So what have we learned from all this?
We’re finally beginning to realize that being a phenomenal athlete doesn’t imply being a great person. Sports are so much an allegory for the struggles of everyday life that sometimes we forget that there’s a chasm between the two, that not all superstars are as charitable as Lionel Messi or as humble and grounded as Derrick Rose.
We learned that we have to be careful about whom we trust with our hope, because the inspiration we draw from these figures is real and pushes us further every day.
We learned that no matter how successful you are in life, it could all slip through your fingers like dry sand in a matter of hours.
We learned that no matter how immortal one may seem, no Icarus is safe from the sun.
To contact Nick Goralka, see above to send him an e-mail containing a question, comment, or scathing insult. His work appears in Alley-oops for Touchdowns! and That Liberal Pinko in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.
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