FROM HERO TO ZERO OVERNIGHT

lance-armstrong        Tiger-Woods

In the past decade we have seen several well known and popular athletes fall from grace. The most recent is the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the sprinter from South Africa who is charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius gained notoriety in the 2012 Summer Olympics when he became the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics when he entered the 400 meters. His custom made prosthetics earned him the nickname Blade Runner and people from all nations cheered him on as a person who had beaten incredible odds to make it this far. He became an instant favorite and his story was one of the most inspiring to come out of the Olympic Games. He was a hero to all, particularly to those facing personal obstacles themselves. Then it all ended very abruptly when the news comes out that he was accused of murdering his girlfriend in February 2013, shooting her at his home in the early morning hours. Instantly people’s opinion of him change from extremely positive to ” What the hell…”. How could our hero turn in to such a monster overnight. It happens…a lot. Another example of hero to zero in even a bigger spotlight is Lance Armstrong, the seven time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor who is now banned for life from competitive cycling due to doping infractions. Armstrong had been under the microscope for doping for years as his feats on the bicycle had made him famous worldwide. When interviewed Lance steadfastly maintained his innocence and I for one believed him. I had thought maybe the French were going out of their way to disgrace an American hero who had made a mockery out of their famous bicycle race. Besides everyone here in the US got behind Lance’s Livestrong Foundation, which provides support for cancer patients, by wearing the yellow bracelets that can no longer be seen on wrists. Lance was a hero until January 2013 when he admitted to doping in a Oprah Winfrey television interview. Lance had been lying  to us all those years…another hero fallen. Joe Paterno was another classic example of a fallen hero that shocked the nation. “JoePa”, 85, had been the face of Penn State football as head coach for 45-years. He was an American institution who had a god-like status in the state of Pennsylvania and was untouchable on the campus of Penn State. That was until it was discovered that he had concealed facts relating to his defensive coordinator’s, Jerry Sandusky, sexual abuse of young boys. Paterno had also tried to persuade the university not to press charges…the university said NO. On July, 2012 the NCAA vacated all of Penn State’s wins from 1998 to 2011 as part of it’s punishment for the child sex abuse scandal, eliminating 111 of the games Paterno had coached and won, dropping him from first to 12th on the list of winningest NCAA football coaches. After 45 years of being a loved coach, it took only weeks to turn his name and reputation to trash. Big mistake by Joe which he payed dearly for. After his dismissal he died only 2- months afterwards, his legend gone and his memory permanently tainted. Down goes another hero. Tiger Woods also knows what it feels like to drop off the cliff of stardom to the valley of doom when on the night of Nov.27th, 2009 Woods left his home at 2:30am in his Cadillac and collided with several objects. At the time he credited his wife for helping him from the car. Woods later admitted to having extra-marital affairs with several women and took an indefinite break from professional golf. Woods would later be divorced from his wife and lose millions in endorsement fees. He is one of the few to overcome his indiscretions and came back as Player of the Year in 2013. I think by coming out and telling the truth shortly after his affairs were made public and his sincere apologies to his family and friends helped the public to overcome and forgive. His image is now tainted but nothing illegal was done and he came clean rather than lying and putting himself farther in the hole which I think is note worthy of any person, celebrity or not. People will accept sincere and honest apologies, however painful they may be, but will not accept flat out lying. Why people just don’t come out originally with the truth is a mystery to me. Is there something about popular celebrities that make them feel invincible and justified in their lying? Or, is this normal behavior that happens all the time in the public but without celebrity status no one hears about it? I believe that celebrities do feel invincible and their egos do not let them accept failure. It may be the same ego that has driven them to the pinnacle of success that drives them to never admitting guilt. The truth eventually catches up and then it is a free-fall from all the adulations and hero-like status. As Tiger says “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to” makes me believe this attitude is common with elite athletes and famous celebrities. There are countless others who have had to be found guilty before admitting anything wrong, too late. One poster child for continuous lying before being busted was track star Marion Jones who repeatedly said she was innocent to doping charges only to end up spending time in prison and losing her track career and potential winnings. Another hero down. My point is two-fold, 1) Don’t cheat in the first place, and 2) if you have been accused of some illegality that you know your guilty of come out and be honest up-front. People will forgive those who seek honest forgiveness but have no patience for those who continuosly lie only to confess after being found guilty. It can be a fast and unforgiving drop from hero to zero.

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