Quick Take: How have recent scandals changed public perceptions of professional sports and athletes?
ABOUT THE QUICK TAKE
Every Friday, the Quick Take columnists will offer their views on an issue of significance to AU. Notable members of the campus community will also be invited to contribute to this feature. Suggestions for topics and other ideas from readers are welcome and encouraged, so please submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Michelle Sindyukov
From: Israel and Russia
Interests: Photography, film and Spanish
Favorite thing to read: The New Yorker and The Economist
Favorite news story of 2013: PRISM, Edward Snowden asylum
The athlete is not the hero anymore
By Michelle Sindyukov
Unfortunately, athletes are no longer our heroes. It wasn’t until recently that professional sports began to involve drugs, but now our technological advantages allow us to find out who does the narcotics and who does not. In other words, we don’t really know how many athletes used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the past to break world records, win the Olympics and become victorious. Today, however, it is easier to identify athletes who are cheating.
Less than a decade ago, people of all ages saw Lance Armstrong as a role model, a man who overcame cancer and became a champion. However, the illusion of Armstrong being incredible soon faded when he was caught in a doping scandal, after which all of his medals and titles were taken away and he was publicly humiliated.
What is most upsetting is that, because of the few athletes like Neil Armstrong who use performance-enhancing drugs, we come to expect that all athletes use them until one day they finally get caught. Thus today, professional athletes are more like celebrities than athletes. They are so interested in advertising contracts and fame that they would do anything to stay in the light of paparazzi and the fans. Therefore, they do drugs and get caught.
This, of course, strongly affects the fans. The many children who want to be athletes may begin to talk about how they would do drugs in order to win and become famous. Unfortunately, society does not understand that those few athletes who actually do the drugs are the outcasts in the field and are a shame to their sports. As someone who grew up around professional soccer players, I have personally witnessed and heard the many conversations between team members who look down on the players who use PEDs. It is shameful in the world of sports.
Today, however, the media creates the perception that PEDs are the standard, and we as fans and viewers begin to believe that all professional sports involve a lot of drugs. The question is, will people give up on sports because of the scandals, or will we accept the use of PED’s as a given element in sports?
Michelle Sindyukov is a freshman in the School of Communication.
Name: Madison Freeman
From: Austin, Texas
Interests: Watching movies, international development, general mischief
Favorite thing to read: The Economist
Favorite news story of 2013: Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster in the Texas Senate
Despite scandals, glorification of guilty athletes doesn’t change
By Madison Freeman
Media outlets treat each new sports scandal as if it comes as a huge shock, as if it suddenly destroys our perception of sports stars as ideal heroes. By this point, though, does it really come as a surprise that our over-glorified athletes dope, rape and break rules?
Anyone who pays half a mind to sports news has heard the familiar narrative: We can’t believe that a pristine player, a role model to young children, has suddenly been revealed to be a cheater, a rapist, a rule-breaker. We hear the discussions about how this scandal will mar them forever and will go down as a black mark on their career. It’s a good story, one that draws in readers and sells papers. The faces of famous athletes splashed across covers with dramatic headlines seem shocking.
But it’s the same thing year after year – the athletes follow the same patterns, and we react to each story with the exact same feigned disbelief. We pretend to forget how often the same things happen because we enjoy the scandal and the gossip of the new “shocking” exposé.
Revelations of poor behavior or cheating certainly harm players. Tiger Woods’ cheating scandal lost him the title of “family man,” Lance Armstrong’s doping lost him his titles and his charity, and Kobe’s rape case lost him his jersey number. But we give them chance after chance to redeem themselves. We continue to adore them, follow their careers, and celebrate their wins. We all know deep down that athletes break rules far more than is acknowledged, but we pretend that they don’t because the fantasy that the super-humans who play the games we follow are playing them fairly is so enticing.
As a society, we briefly condemn athletes whose wrongs are revealed, but our disapproval is not a lasting sentence. Those who have been shamed once are subsequently expected to remain subdued and modest in their actions and their successes, but they are allowed to continue playing, earning, and winning. We act as if the exposed athletes are the exception, and continue to glorify those whose private errors are yet to be uncovered. Sports scandals may change our perception of singular athletes, but we inevitably continue to consider athletes as a whole as if they follow the rules of their sports and their society, no matter how many times we are proven incorrect.
The sports scandals that have broken in the past year have not changed public opinion. Professional and college athletes who bask in the practically unconditional adoration of their fans will continue to break rules, and we the public will continue to act as if scandalous actions are atypical, as if they are not symptomatic of a greater norm.
Madison Freeman is a freshman in the School of International Service.
Name: Emma Williams
From: Lincoln, Neb.
Interests: Film, writing, and photography
Favorite thing to read: David Sedaris books
Favorite news story of 2013: Wendy Davis’ filibuster
PED discoveries could help fans’ notions of body image, self-esteem
By Emma Williams
The recent scandals in everything from cycling to baseball may be the best thing that has ever happened in the world of professional sports.
As a result of nearly all athletes’ strong competitive drives, they often feel pressured to continue perfecting themselves even past their prime. Once they reach the maximum of their physical abilities, some athletes begin to use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Now that this behavior has been found out and punished in so many high-profile athletes, it can finally begin to stop. When other athletes, most importantly very impressionable high school and college students, see the fallout of their heroes’ bad decisions, they are much more likely to avoid those decisions in the future.
These scandals being made public is also a good thing for the general population. In much the same way that expectations of female beauty are force-fed to women in beauty magazines, unrealistic expectations for masculinity are often perpetuated in the world of sports. When an average man sees a so-called “perfect” male athlete, he often can develop low self-esteem by trying in vain to reach an unattainable goal. Now that it is common knowledge that no one can actually be so incredibly in-shape, men and women who had aspired to look like these athletes may be able to stop feeling so inadequate.
Overall, I hope all the athletes who have skated through life so easily by cheating will continue to be punished, and those who actually worked hard without PEDs will become the norm.
Now that the public is aware that it really is impossible to achieve what has been marketed to them as a “perfect body,” they can begin to move towards self-acceptance and body positivity.
Hopefully the next story to break will be the widespread anorexia and bulimia found in most mainstream models, so both men and women can share in the positive outcome.
Emma Williams is a freshman in the School of Communication.
Name: Marisa Fein
From: Raleigh, N.C.
Interests: Writing, playing with my dogs, exploring D.C.
Favorite thing to read: Huffington Post, anything by John Green
Favorite news story of 2013: The closing of the American embassies
PEDs call authenticity, glory of athletes’ success into question
By Marisa Fein
A part of human nature is wanting to believe in the impossible, to witness something that no one has ever been able to do before.
This is where athletes hold their power, in their ability to push the limits of what was previously thought possible and to excel in ways that no average person could.
But if an athlete must use performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), then have they really achieved anything at all? Are they really any more talented than an average, non-professional athlete?
This is the question that sports fans must now ask themselves as scandals surrounding the use of PEDs in the sports world become more and more frequent.
Many see athletes as quintessential Americans: dedicated, hardworking, ambitious, and of course, in pristine physical condition. These are the people who little kids strive to be, who teenagers work to emulate, for whom adults spend their extra cash to collect memorabilia that celebrates a player’s athletic abilities. But when the public learns that their heroes are using drugs to get ahead, attitudes about the players immediately shift from awe to feeling like they’ve in some way been misled. No matter how you put it, the use of PEDs is cheating, and if there’s one thing that the public hates, it’s feeling like they’ve been cheated. Because the public really has no way of knowing how widespread the use of PEDs really is, it can be hard to trust any winning athletes. It’s hard to not raise an eyebrow when an athlete performs so much better than his or her peers, and we must now call into question what constitutes a fair playing field in athletics.
Despite recent high-profile doping busts, as with Lance Armstrong, there are still fans who do not want to admit that their favorite athletes could be taking PEDs. People still want to look at them as role models, not glorified junkies. They want sports to hold some aspect of mystery and hear stories of small-town athletes achieving their dreams and reaching the professional level based off their pure talent. Athletes will always hold some sort of noble quality in the mind of the general public, but for some the magic of professional sports has been ruined as it becomes more and more evident that success may not be based on natural talent alone.
Marisa Fein is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences.