What you’ll hear at the end of tonight’s HBO “Real Sports” when host Bryant Gumbel has his final say:
“Finally tonight, as last week’s tragic shooting in South Africa would suggest, the business of myth-making in sports isn’t going very well this year. Charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius is just the latest celebrated athlete to recently show that the was more flawed than fabulous.
Whether it’s Manti Te’o and his imaginary girlfriend, Lance Armstrong and his half-hearted apologies, the drug evasions of baseball’s Ryan Braun, or the endless alibis of basketball’s Dwight Howard, stars in a variety of sports in recent weeks have not only shown themselves to be less than perfect, but in many cases – far from decent.
While it’s tempting to believe the problem is simply that we know too much about our sports heroes nowadays, a bigger problem might well be that we demand too little of athletes before we deify them. Yes, the toys of modern media make it difficult to hide the flaws of even the best of people. But when you consider who’s being promoted, and why they’re being lionized, you get the feeling that the bar is often being set too low to begin with.
As a result, fans who routinely lead with their hearts are being ill-served by those eager to build a pedestal for people they barely know and rarely challenge. In the end, it may be simpler to see athletes as either heroes or villains. But as the adage holds, there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future. I forget who first said that but I’m guessing it wasn’t a sports fan.”