I want to begin this commentary with a big shout-out to Elizabeth Merrill and Amy K. Nelson, the authors of a (yet another) great piece about the trials and tribulations of being married to a professional athlete. Now that all kinds of people’s “dirty laundry” is airing out in this new age of transparency, it looks like we’re going to be hearing a lot more about these kinds of personal issues in the athletic world from now on.
What I find so fascinating about the subject of athletes’ infidelities is that people continue to seem surprised by the seemingly endless stories about this admittedly juicy subject. Yes, of course I fully understand that we tend to love a good soap opera and all. But what fascinates me most of all is that so many of the women who get romantically involved with high-profile athletes actually appear to believe that it’s realistic to expect their widely adored and sought-after spouses to shun everyone else’s sexual advances under all circumstances. After all, it’s one thing to remain optimistically hopeful that we’ll experience true romantic love at least once in our lives. However, it’s another matter entirely to project that hope onto an athlete without having seriously observed his capacity to resist the steady flow of temptations that come with his job.
Many sports fans get way too emotionally attached to a socially programmed belief that we need cultural heroes to look up to in order to avoid sinking into a deep psychological depression. This canned subliminal message is hammered at us so sneakily, yet so constantly, that most of us don’t even notice it. So we end up marching to its beat by expecting athletes to meet the same character standards that we apply to our most celebrated spiritual icons. Unfortunately, though, a high profile athlete who displays the unshakeable emotional discipline to completely dismiss the glamorous perks associated with his stardom is an extremely rare find.
This is perfectly understandable, too, since most blue chip athletes are coddled even as children, and are actually held to a lower personal character standard (generally speaking) than non-athletes. As I’ve pointed out in other commentaries, it really makes no sense for us to expect athletes who’ve never been trained in the subtleties of human relationships to suddenly become spiritual saints. Furthermore, the hardest thing for us all to resist is the magnetic pull of anything that gives us extreme levels of "sense" pleasure, and athletes receive a far higher than average volume of offers (both solicited and unsolicited) to satisfy their senses.
My bottom line here: it’s time for all of us to once and for all acknowledge that the “happily ever after” fairy tale stories that we read and listened to as children were our caretakers’ attempts to entertain us and stimulate our imaginations, but those stories have always been classified as fictional – for good reason. It’s high time that we woke up to clear-headed adult-level perceptions and analyses of our life experiences and expectations. And if we don’t want to wake up, then let’s instead stop complaining about how unexpected the blizzard was after having listened to several weather reports indicating a 75% chance of heavy snow and high winds!
Published 12-06-2010 © 2022 Access Athletes, LLC