Often times I find the catalogue of weekly sporting news, which I hastily scribble down in an effort to prepare for my Monday assault on your armchair opinions, horribly skewed towards an athlete or arena of athletic endeavour that I feel deserves our attention if solely for the purpose of scorn, derision or mild ridicule. This is primarily due to 2 prominent factors – a) there being a never ending parade of athletes, agents and sporting management who appear to believe that it is their Prime Directive to prove to visiting alien life forms that ‘stupid’ is more than just a state of mind and b) our Fan fascination with star power is founded on the notion that We built ‘em up for the sole express purpose of bringing ‘em down. Somehow, this makes us feel a whole lot better about ourselves in a parallel Dr. Phil universe when out of the blue our flawed, all-too-human Superstars implode, publicly combust and fall to Earth like just another random asteroid.
We speak this week of course, of Nike’s latest fallen icon and focal point of quite possibly the most ill-advised – albeit in hindsight – catchphrase of all time, Oscar Pistorius. As an aside, I would desperately like to know who is running the Ethics and Morality Vetting Department over there at the Swoosh because, on the heels of Lance Armstrong’s admission that he injected everything but the frozen remains of Ted Williams into his system and Tiger’s propensity for the Perkins’ Daily Sandwich Special (nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more) it seems as though only Jay Feaster is doing a consistently worse job on a day-to-day basis. Good grief… the only thing that could have made this add any worse would have been to have had Ted Nugent in the background pointing a loaded AR-15 at Piers Morgan and a hologram of Steve Prefontaine.
The facts in this story are still not clear but what is known is this – Reeva Steenkamp is dead and the Blade Runner, one of the true Fan and Media darlings of the London Olympics has been charged with her murder. She was reportedly shot four times in the head and hands and it was initially suggested that this was a Valentine’s Day surprise gone horribly wrong. However, subsequent reports have said that Steenkamp was dressed in her nightgown, the bed showed signs of both having been in it, three of the 9MM gunshots went through the bathroom door and most disturbing of all – the discovery of a bloody cricket bat and the suggestion that Steenkamp’s skull had indeed been crushed. Police requested blood tests from Pistorius and while those results are still pending it seems as though the only possible eventuality that could further taint this already brutal murder would be a discovery of anabolic rage as a contributing factor to an already senseless crime.
While this will now play out in the Main Stream Global Media as a hideous South African remake of the O.J. Simpson story complete with topical commentary on celebrity gun culture and the pressures of life in the lime-light, it seems as though this will likely be a more bitter pill to swallow for most Sports Fans. While not everyone recognized that the Blade Runner had a right to make the crossover as a participant in the ‘able-bodied’ Olympics, there were very few in their right minds who didn’t recognize that his triumph of spirit over his own personal adversity was the truest embodiment of the Olympic ideal. The saddest irony which served as a subtext to his realization of his Olympic Dream was that, had he won Gold or any medal, the pervasive discourse amongst the so-called ‘enlightened’ Fan would have had a much different tone eerily reminiscent of those historically exclusionary days which almost every sport has struggled to conveniently forget. Sadly, he will no longer wear the mantle of role model, reluctant or otherwise from here on in and will be known as Defendant and will be judged by his peers on perhaps the most level playing field he has ever encountered.
Maybe, just maybe that is why Charles Barkley was right all those years ago. As Fans, we have this terrible tendency to - in an effort to inspire our children to bigger and better things - point at the dreaded TV screen and suggest that somehow those abstract stars of sport and entertainment should somehow represent a moral compass that our youth can aspire to. As we continue to microscopically dissect the lives of our ‘heroes’ there are few that seem to escape with their reputations intact – the intense daily scrutiny often reveals what is perhaps the easiest of truths – the gift of athletic genius does not come with a Survivor immunity necklace to protect the wearer from the human frailties which so often lose track of true magnetic moral North. Neither does the gift of being a parent but the subtle difference is that we get to look our children in the eyes every day and explain our triumphs and our mistakes… and that my friends is being a Role Model.
Until next time Kelowna…