This column is a continuation off of yesterday’s …so….there….
Yes and yes.
Whether we like it or not, we don’t consume anything — much less real people playing real games — in a vacuum. We consider the nature of an athletes’ personality, values, beliefs and lifestyle choices when we develop an overall perception of who they are. If you disagree, get back to me after week 12 of the NFL season (when Deshaun Watson returns to action). To suggest the motivation for following an athlete rests on if they score points for ‘our team’ or break a record is simply preposterous.
What if every jersey just said “N/A?” on the back? Remember in Madden 98 (maybe the column should end right here!!!) when your franchise mode went to year No. 2 and you ‘drafted’ players with made up names like “James Williston.” I always hated that. Why? Because James Williston wasn’t real, and I knew it! It matters, even in a make-believe video game, if we’re playing with real people.
Speaking of the NFL — how many people view Aaron Rodgers differently after his clashes with the media over the vaccine and his recent decision to be a full-fledged hippy? I’m not even suggesting it’s a simple “I like him more” or “I hate him more” type deal. Really, in the case of him and many athletes we track, information about what goes on off the field often provides clarity to the results on it.
I would argue that for many — if not all — athletes, personal revelations coincide with athletic realities. For instance, understanding details about Michael Jordan’s backstory — his personal vendetta’s towards opponents, coaches and even several teammates — illuminate elements of his greatness, namely his willingness to win at all costs and insatiable drive to be the last man standing.
Similar clarity existed with Lance Armstrong. Perhaps we should have seen the doping lies from afar after learning of his severed childhood relationships multiple strained romantic affairs.
But, even if an athlete isn’t one of the all-timers, I care about what they stand for, and so does everyone else. They can say they don’t, and that might be true … until it isn’t. Athletes’ personal decisions, personal stances and personal lives have consequences. They also provide a window for us to understand more holistically who they are.