Blurring the line between sports star and person

The recent murder of Steve McNair brought up a discussion on PTI yesterday that I thought was very interesting.  Steve McNair was killed by his 20 year old girlfriend in a murder-suicide on the 4th.  The reporting of the killing was interesting to watch unfold, as the first headline was that he had been killed, then it was added that there was also a female killed, then it was a 20 year old female, and then it was determined that her and McNair were together.  McNair had always been viewed as one of the toughest guys in the league, as well as being one of the stand up guys in the league, with a wife and 4 boys.  This now happens, so the end of his legacy is going to be that he was killed by his 20 year old girlfriend.

Onto the PTI discussion…..  JA Adande and Dan Lebatard were having a discussion how this changes his legacy.  JA was trying to make an argument that people will look back and see his actions on the field and his philanthropy in a different light than his affair and murder.  I do agree that people will look favorably on his football career, but people WILL remember his death.  So how is this different than what JA was saying?  It’s different because in these days of twitter, blogs, etc, people and fans view sports personalities (and celebrities) as people just like us.  Previously, we looked at these types of people in a different light.  We let them live two lives because they seemed to be different kinds of people.  There was their “on air” or “on field” lives, and then they had a personal life that we kinda let slip.  “Everyone cheats in Hollywood” or “Of course they got divorced, 5 years is a long time to married in Hollywood” or “Athletes travel all the time and there’s all the groupies, so….”  With today’s world of twitter and blogs, this veil is being lifted.  We don’t feel these people have two lives, they have one life like us.  We have found out that pro athletes are like us, except their job is a sport.  These guys have been twittering their problems, and guess what, their problems are a lot like ours.  I’ve been following Ian Poulter (the pro golfer), and he doesn’t seem all that different than me.  He likes to drink beers with his friends, he went and saw the Hangover with a big bucket of popcorn, and he is still impressed with how much stuff Titleist gives him.  It just happens he is way better at golf than I am.  We can kinda see how small the difference is between us.  We can see how we could hang out with these people, or how they would act if they were in a situation like the one we are in.  The closer we get to these people, they become less athletes or celebrities, and become more like us. 

From now on, when things like this happen to celebrities, we judge or view their entire life like we would judge our friends or neighbors.  If a friend of yours is cheating on their wife/husband, you don’t split the person’s accomplishments into a good person and a bad person, you judge them as one person.  If you’ve got a good friend that you’ve known for years and have great memories of golf trips, Vegas, dive bars, etc, and then he cheats on his wife, you don’t talk about his great accomplishments of 10 years ago when you went to Vegas and we won $500, you talk about him cheating on his wife.  The memories you have of him are still there, and you will still enjoy those memories.  But, they will be tarnished because of what he’s done.  Everything that has happened still happened, but you add in “but he also just cheated on his wife.”   

Hopefully this will help to reinforce to pro athletes that they can be role models and can have a big impact on people.  You can have a bigger impact on people when they are able to relate to you.  Let’s hope we tilt towards this end of the spectrum.