When actor/comedian Chevy Chase was a regular member of the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” the comedy ensemble that starred in the original version of the popular hit TV program Saturday Night Live, one of his many characters was the anchor for the SNL News broadcast. I’ll never forget the night when Chase began his comedy newscast with the following statement: “Hi. I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not. Tonight I have some bad news, and I have some good news. First, the bad news: There isn’t any good news! Now, for the good news: That’s all the bad news I have for you!”
Unfortunately, if you’re a high profile college or professional athlete who’s hoping for a normal love life, my message to you in this piece is kind of like Chevy Chase’s. I wish I could truthfully point you to a magical relationship-building formula like the type that the Hallowell witch sisters use on the TV series Charmed. But you don’t have the benefit of that kind of spell casting, so you have to use the old-fashioned method – trial and error.
As you already know, your first hurdle as a celebrity (like I said in my blog about making friends) is to figure out who loves you for who you are inside, rather than for how much money and fame they can get from being with you. As if that weren’t a big enough challenge, though, you also have to practice a much higher level of self-discipline than most others, because you’re constantly staring sexual temptation in the face.
Being a high profile athlete can get pretty lonely, because your travel schedule can make it tough to spend enough quality time with someone you really care about. Even if you do happen to find a lover or spouse that you can build a relationship with, chances are that the physical, mental and emotional demands of playing your sport will absorb so much of your time and energy that you’ll have precious little energy left to solidify your love relationship. Yet at the same time, you’ll want to be able to share the ups and downs that you experience as an athlete with people who you hope will understand your life.
In order to be a high level athlete, you must be willing to sacrifice devoting as much time to cultivating a happy life with your significant other as that kind of relationship usually requires. On the other hand, your partner must be able to handle the emotional strain of you being gone a lot.
Ideally, when this topic comes at you in the rationale way that I’m presenting it here, you might even be tempted to think, “Man, I’m a strong-willed person. I wouldn’t be a high-level athlete if I weren’t. So what Dr. Thompson is saying shouldn’t be that big a deal for me.” Hopefully you’re right and, even when you’re feeling a little lonely, hopefully you have the level of physical and emotional discipline that it takes to resist the frequent offers of temporary companionship that are probably already coming your way. After all, lonely feelings are a powerful driving force that can wreak havoc with your decision-making process when you’re facing a really tempting offer of affection from someone you’ve met while traveling.
So when you’re at your loneliest and you’re itching for some affection or just plain personal attention, those are the times when you face the decision that can make or break your love relationship. Those are the times when you can either give in to the temptation of the moment, hoping to hide your weakness from your long-term partner, or you can honor your relationship by doggedly choosing to keep the promises that you made to your love partner.
I realize how hard it can be to turn down freely offered affection, especially when your ego has been pumped up by the offer, and you started out wanting to make intimate contact with someone in the first place. On top of that, the person who made the offer is probably highly attracted to your well-tuned athletic body, and you’re probably feeling kind of invincible yourself. So you find yourself thinking, “Nobody has to know!”
Well, my message to you in this blog is, at least two of you already do know! So before you just let go of your emotional discipline and follow your “urge to merge” with someone who’s tempting you, you’ll be better off if you carefully assess the risks involved in breaking your promises to your partner. One of these risks is that your temporary partner might be sneaky and greedy, and could be sleeping with you for some sort of personal gain that’ll come back to haunt you sooner or later. Another risk is that your temporary partner might be infected with a sexually transmitted illness, and a simple contraceptive mistake could ruin your health and your long-term relationship. The last risk I’ll mention here is rarely talked about. I’m referring to the risk that you’ll get away with lying to your lover for so long that you become jaded and start believing that your cavalier infidelity is justifiable and harmless to your mate.
The bottom line is, don’t allow yourself to believe the hype that sports fans and the media generate about you and other high profile athletes. Since temptation is always staring you in the face, you need to be more disciplined than they are. Even though they may think they want to live a life like yours, they don’t see that all you really want to do is play the sport you love, and give and receive authentic love like anyone else.
The motivating factor for taking your advice into serious consideration in direct connection to how their actions, through who they allow in their space and what they do in their "spare" or "down" time, if nothing else, should be that multi-million contract they have. A day or more of being alone, should not be the excuse for allowing your mind to take you to a place of an uncontrollable need of attention or affection. Where is the self-discilpine? A player has it while on the field or court, why can't it transfer over to the hotel room? And, I would also include that a player needs to get to a point of developing a keen sense of discernment in order to determine who should or should not be in their space. This thing is important. Not everyone likes them because of their personality...please....they saw the slam dunk, touchdown, hole-in-one play on ESPN. Get it together.
The same reason why professional athletes should possess more discipline (i.e. having a multi-million dollar contract) is also an achilles' heel for many of them. The allure of having money and fame goes to their head and they lose sight of what's really important to them.
Monica, you make a great point in that athletes need to develop a keen sense of discernment of who they allow to be around them. Athletes must have this to build a strong inner circle that will reinforce who should be associated with them both socially and professionally. Unfortunately, if you don't have your own sense of discernment, then your inner circle will most likely include individuals who do not have your best interests at heart. Not to mention, you will be even more vulnerable to others outside the circle looking to take advantage of you through your inner circle or you directly. I know it seems obvious, but this is exactly what happened with O.J. Mayo. His main confidant Rodney Guillory was a bad actor and O.J. became exposed to several other shady characters as a result.
Dr. Timothy Thompson12-19-2008
Hi Monica and Matt. I apologize for being away from these important matters for so long. I'm back in the AccessAthletes saddle now, for the long haul.
Now for the business at hand. First, thanks for both of your thoughtful comments about the importance of high profile athletes to think ahead before jumping into relationships. Of course, the three of us agree about that. I want to call attention to another type of situation that relates to the public perceptions of sports stars. I'm referring specifically to the type of situation in which Plaxico Burress found himself embroiled. I'll be going into that in more detail in the blog that I'm currently writing on this site, but I do want to make a brief comment here, too. Particularly, Monica, in another piece you wrote, you acknowledged a statement made by someone that many of our high profile athletes come from rough physical surroundings, and may not feel safe in public spaces. My comment is: While that's certainly true in a considerable number of cases, high profile athletes are best served by learning how to make life choices that take their high profile status into account. Plaxico didn't really do that in the case of his self-shooting fiasco. I'm going to say more about the subject of decisionmaking in my next blog, entitled "Building an Appealing Media Image Overall." I'm working on it even as I write this note. Peace.