Over-sexed Sports Heroes and the Fall of Icarus

We need a few good sports heroes to step forward and present a wholesome and selfless side of sport.

Someone assure us that there are sportsmen who don’t sleep with a different woman in every town. Someone assure us that there are top performers who perform without being pumped up on steroids. Someone assure us that he would play for less money because he loves the game so much and he doesn’t need any more money. Someone assure us that he loves his city so much that he wouldn’t think of going somewhere else to make a few more million dollars.

Someone tell me why I should aspire for my son to grow up to be like you.

I’m thinking about professional sports this morning because Kobe Bryant has settled with his accuser. He was not convicted of a criminal offense and he and his victim or partner won’t have to go through the disclosures of a civil trial. They both feared that because their lives are so slimy and they know it.

Kobe is, of course, as guilty as the day is long. Although he is probably not guilty of rape, the guilt that’s on his head (which, by the way, is known in the Bryant home court) is that of adding to the tarnish of modern sport that has so obscured the beauty and celebration of professional athletics that fans can hardly see the through it.

Jose Canseco says nearly everyone in baseball is doing steroids and, without restraint, doing the bimbos who hang around professional athletes. Jose says he remembers only a few married teammates who didn’t cheat on their wives on the road.

Canseco’s actions throughout the years are despicable and his credibility is questionable, but is anyone coming forward with a different picture?

Baseball recently adopted a tougher steroid-testing program after the sport came under increased scrutiny about the drugs. But I want to hear the stories of athletes who say they are happy for the testing but are even happier that they know that their performances are drug free and legitimate.

Show me the heroes. I don’t care about their money.

In the meantime, many will look beyond the debacle that has become modern professional sports. As the lives of egocentric, drugged up, and sexually indulgent professional athletes come crashing down, we will go on with our own lives, a bit curious, but otherwise disinterested.

Humbug Journal wrote about Jason Giambi’s fall from grace, citing a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, called “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.”

In the painting, which you can see here, Icarus is barely visible, splashing down in the lower right corner. W.H. Auden wrote of it:

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Bryant, Bonds, Giambi—professional athletics—unrestrained by the call of character and good taste will, like Icarus, fall. But it will be nothing but a little-noticed splash in a large, busy landscape.

Show us heroes. We may notice.

–James Jewell
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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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