Say It Ain’t So…(Fill in the Blank)

Athletes have the ability to captivate our emotions and trick them as well

by Published: Feb 20, 2013

As a child I had base­ball idols, but now all I have is skepticism.

Watching “Slammin’ Sammy Sosa” belt the ball onto Waveland Avenue from an out­dated tele­vi­sion in the base­ment of my par­ents’ house or lis­ten­ing to the radio broad­cast at the com­mu­nity pool that sum­mer, he could do no wrong.

I imi­tated his seem­ingly patented hop as he started his stroll around the bases in the con­fines of my Chicago area base­ment. After 66 total home-runs in the 1998 sea­son, I became quite tal­ented in the rendition.

The home-run race of 1998 between Sosa and fel­low slug­ger Mark McGuire was quite sim­i­lar to the arms race of the Cold War. It was good ver­sus evil, and in the end both would lose.

Sammy was my child­hood hero; he was the man who came from noth­ing, the ball player whose first glove was con­structed out of a used milk car­ton and whose smile and jovial nature lit up press con­fer­ences across the country.

But the same boy­ish charm was not present dur­ing his con­gres­sional meet­ing after alle­ga­tions of steroid use, com­pounded with the corked bat inci­dent to make the sit­u­a­tion worse.

Yet, I was still a believer. I was in a sense of denial con­cern­ing the alle­ga­tions. It was Sosa who was viewed by many—including myself—as the next Roberto Clemente, the sav­ior of the Dominican Republic and the sav­ior of the Cubs.

As time lapsed and I entered my high school years, real­ity sunk in. Sammy was guilty of his crimes through my eyes, and I thought I would never look at sports ath­letes quite in the same light again.

Then came the curi­ous case of Oscar Pistorius. A name if pre­vi­ously unknown before must cer­tainly be known now after the recent mur­der allegations.

The South African dual-amputee sprinter known as “The Blade Runner” became the dar­ling of inter­na­tional sport after his per­for­mance at the last Olympic Games.

Before Pistorius had his first birth­day, both of his legs were ampu­tated below the knee due to a bone defect. Most peo­ple would be rid­den to a life in a wheel­chair, but Pistorius man­aged otherwise.

I thought his story was made for Hollywood, and the ded­i­ca­tion to his craft must have been far beyond the com­pe­ti­tion to com­pete in the man­ner that he did dur­ing those cou­ple of weeks in London.

The 26-year-old became the sym­bol of unity for a coun­try that was rid­dled from an apartheid-style gov­ern­ment that crip­pled South Africa for nearly 50 years. Billboards across Johannesburg and through­out Nike adver­tise­ments dawned his like­ness as the “bul­let in the chamber”.

He had every­thing: Fame, a stun­ning beauty under his wing and the endorse­ment deals to spoil such a lady. After allegedly killing his girl­friend on Valentine’s Day, the ques­tion of motive remains.

As Pistorius sits in jail await­ing a poten­tial 25-year sen­tence, colum­nists around the world are char­ac­ter­iz­ing one more sports dar­ling to add to the grow­ing list of those who fall from grace.

We tend to glo­rify those who excel in sport rather than indi­vid­u­als in edu­ca­tion or other low pro­file pro­fes­sions. This event will not change our van­tage point, and noth­ing truly will. It is our nature as human beings to hoist those who tri­umph over the human spirit to lev­els that no human being should reach.

I ask stu­dents and myself to regain a sense of per­spec­tive in the world of sports. Athletes can do any mul­ti­ple of things that we can­not achieve phys­i­cally, yet these exploits do not sum­mate the qual­ity of the individual.