BY AFTON HICKS
There is a feeling that comes over a person as they watch their favorite athlete pull a stunt that was once believed almost impossible by human standards. Whether it’s running a mile in under four minutes or throwing a football pass 90 yards, athletes never cease to provide moments of physical awe that literally take the breath away from those lucky enough to witness it. They represent the modern day American hero.
Recently, however, a growing trend has endangered the positive influence athletes have on American culture. Reality TV shows have become the bottomless pit of television, with their plethora of colorful personalities providing a few moments of comic relief. However, what happens when the lines of reality television and sports begin to blur and the athletes we have always held to a higher standard become a part of this entertainment trash bag?
It’s hard to imagine a young Cincinnati Bengals fan tuning in to watch football icon Chad Johnson, also known as Ocho Cinco, down seemingly endless amounts of alcohol all while in the company of about twenty women swooning over the size of his wallet. When a role model is partaking in reckless behavior it makes that behavior appear acceptable. Add in the glamour of the entertainment industry and the temptation becomes hard to resist.
Johnson is an athlete who has succumbed to the glitz and glam of reality television stardom with his dating show “Ultimate Catch”. Johnson spends each episode weeding through a group women to find “the one.” The episodes provide a daily dose of drama, cat fights, and sexual exploitation. This from the same athlete who fans have watched make amazing catches every Sunday on the football field.
Athletes trashing their reputations isn’t the only downfall of their participation in reality programs. It can also affect their legacy. Athleticism can easily become overshadowed by the daily scandals and lifestyle of a reality television star. At some point, their title as an athlete can even be forgotten and any recognition of them linked solely to the persona they portray on screen.
Bruce Jenner is best known today as the bumbling dad on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” However ask any sports fan over thirty and they know Bruce Jenner as a former U.S. track and field athlete, who won the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. This former sports hero is now portrayed as a man who stumbles around his L.A. home burdened by a controlling wife and five self-obsessed, over dramatic daughters. His contribution to the athletic community is now a surprise to young viewers and reality television has overshadowed all his previous fame as an athlete.
Jenner and Johnson are not the only ones who have fallen victim to the reality curse. Athletes like tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Hank Baskett, and major leaguer Jose Canseco have all traded in their jerseys for drama and bad publicity.
Participating in reality television also takes away from the wholesomeness that is associated with American athletes. These athletes represent our countries moral fiber and are now losing the high standards with which Americans have held them. As much as we would love to witness this secret side of their lives, it’s important to remember that part of what makes them special is the idea that they live above typical human temptation.
Athletes are an example that with hard work and the right attitude, a person can truly accomplish anything. Every sport has its success stories and these stories are fuel for regular, everyday people to continue to live out their dreams in hopes that one day they too will bask in the glory of their accomplishments. Reality television takes all this glory away. Athletes belong on the playing field, not throwing alcoholic beverages in a persons face or revealing the skeletons they have hiding in their closet to a camera lens. While everyone loves to indulge in a little reality show mayhem every once in a while, it’s important to keep these two aspects of entertainment seperate.