Sport is one of the major attractions, hobbies, businesses, and endeavours in the world.When it comes to the playing of sport, whether it is a game of football in the park , a local town league match, or the Premier league, people play with passion and for enjoyment or love of the sport.
This same passion is what drives our desire to win, to beat our opponents, to triumph. This becomes all the more relevant when money is added to the mix. The drive, the intensity, the desire are all raised to a level which transcends the ‘fun or leisure’ element of participation. A good sportsman or woman likes to pride themselves on their focus and their self-control. The fact is, sport is about respect for your fellow competitor, for officials, and the people who pay large amounts of money to watch said sport. These values have been ingrained into sports people since the day they began to learn their respective trades.
Society has also come to expect these values to be a major part of the make up of said sportsmen/women. So in essence, sports stars are expected to reflect all of the expectations which, they put upon themselves, which is expected of them by others, namely agents, managers, publicists, and of course, the fans. In ‘real’ life, not all of us have the same temperament, personality, and self control. These differences in attributes are what create variety in people.
We watch certain stars for different reasons. One of the prominent reasons is unpredictability. We never know what we will get. This has created a catalogue of stars who we either love or hate. We either hate the fact that they are undisciplined, or we love it. One fact is that we need these personalities in sport, and this includes their flaws and idiosyncrasies. Being from the UK, I grew up watching all sports. I was a fan of snooker, and remember watching a certain ‘Steve Davis’ He was a phenomenal player and broke all sorts of records, but he acquired the nickname ‘boring’ due to his perceived lack of character, and his often dull responses when interviewed. But for the media, he was a dream. You knew what you were getting. You never had to worry about him doing anything erratic or out of place. Many fans liked the gentleman he was, which led to mixed popularity split between old and young, with the older fans in support of him.
On the flip-side, there was also another star who emerged during the 80’s. He was a firebrand who completely changed the perception of behaviour of sports stars. His name was John McEnroe. Another outstanding athlete, he reached the top of his sport(tennis) but the road was not smooth. He had an extremely fiery temperament, and would fly into a rage at the drop of a hat. Shouting and screaming at umpires, line judges, and ball boys alike. He coined an expression which became famous “the ball was on the line” This came about after he spent more than 10 minutes arguing a line call and screaming at the top of his voice. He also divided opinion, with the ‘like or hate’ camps firmly split. Looking back at both of those characters, with fond memories, I can’t help but think that ,many of today’s sports stars are being ‘engineered’.
What they wear, what they do, where they go, what they say, is all being carefully choreographed to cultivate their ‘brand’ and that often the real person behind the ‘facade’ is never known. Even their “the real ….” interviews are carefully scripted. When a sportsman does or says something outside of the script (ie; shows their real self or their true emotions) it becomes headline news and that person is reviled by the media, who in turn control the opinions of the fans( those of you who don’t think so, have fallen for the lie).
A recent incident highlights the situation under review. An Australian tennis star was recently vilified for saying he was “bored with tennis” as he lost very easily to an opponent ranked well below him.
What is wrong with him? Nothing. He is just not ‘manufactured’ and expresses exactly what is on his mind, ‘unlike most’. I hope this trend reverses itself before we become in danger of becoming the same robotic fans as our robotic stars.