Friday, April 17, 2015


Sports Stars, Internet

The sports pages have been singing the praises of Jordan Spieth since he won this year’s Masters Golf Tournament. I hardly knew the young man until then, but I’m now much better acquainted with him. And there’s a lot to like. The phrase we’ve been hearing all week is that the young 21 year old is “wise beyond his years”. His family was gathered around the 18th green for his final winning putt. But his father reminded Jordan to lap the green and thank the fans who were applauding him. Everyone close to Jordan was there except his 14 year old sister whose neurological condition places her on the autism spectrum. He’s repeatedly stated that she’s the one special person in his life that keeps him grounded and he’s in constant awe of how she and her friends embrace life. She’s always expecting him to win and is so vocal on the course that she unfortunately wasn’t present last Sunday. But she’s obviously Jordan’s constant reminder that he’s playing a sporting game while she’s dealing with the tougher realities of life. The folks at Under Amour are still smiling, as they recently renegotiated his contract with them to a new ten year deal. The wire-to-wire four days in Augusta is estimated to be worth about $34 million in free advertising for starters. He really doesn’t seem to have any “kinks in the amour” either--with the possible exception of yelling at his golf ball like a craps player yells at the dice.

And then this morning I turned to the sports section of USA Today and quickly saw the pathetic headlines that read “Ego, Excess Bring Hernandez Ruin”. The follow up headline on page two read “Hernandez story a cautionary tale”. Aaron Hernandez had signed a $40 million contract before his 24th birthday. He was a super star throughout his football career. He threw it all away as a convicted murderer. The "unconditional adulation of us sports fans, the absolution of his handlers and the delusion of celebrity" led to his spiraling fall from grace. Surprisingly, Aaron was raised in a loving and stable environment. But he seemed to start going off the rails at 16 when his father died as he started his ascension in football. As life evolved, his Florida State Gators won a national championship and his New England Patriots reached the Super Bowl in 2011.

Both of these young men were born with a very special gift to excel at the top of their chosen sport. In Aaron’s case, the article concluded that “It’s an important reminder for every athlete. But it’s even more important for the coaches, agents, hangers-on and, yes, even fans who feed these athletes’ egos, enabling their boorish behavior. They might not have pulled the trigger, but they all had a hand in making Hernandez believe he could”.

Isn’t it ironic that we humanoids always seem so surprised when sports figures that we’ve elevated to god-like idols turn out to be flawed human beings? Since these gifted athletes are likely not well grounded, I suspect that they’re probably more surprised than we are at the time. I’m convinced that Jordan is standing on solid ground. I kinda thought that about a tiger I first met in 1997 when I got his rookie autograph in Florida. But then his father died too and the rest is history. We fans should do our best to keep any sport and its stars in the same perspective as this new young Phenom for the sake of us all.

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