Friday afternoon, I was sitting on my couch and catching up on the latest sports highlights from the week when I noticed a shocking story scroll across the bottom of the screen. Apparently Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young had confided in a therapist that he was considering suicide.
Initially I felt the shock that I am sure many of us shared. That feeling, however, quickly wore off and I was only left with disappointment. Not in Vince Young, but rather in the sports news network that I was watching. How was that story any of my business? If it is true then I certainly feel for Young and his family, but that is not the type of information that needs to be shared in sports news or anywhere else.
We watch these athletes week in and week out, and over time begin to feel like we actually know them. It is easy to forget that aside from extraordinary physical ability they are not much different from everyone else. The fact that they decide to use their ability to their advantage in professional sports does not entitle fans or media to dig into their personal lives.
We all have our skeletons in the closet, and if you look long enough you are bound to find something. It seems that the effects this type of probing has on professional athletes’ lives is wildly underappreciated.
I am sure that as I watched that story scroll across the bottom of the screen Friday, somewhere Young and his family saw the same thing. As if things weren’t already bad enough, think of the embarrassment that he must have felt when the entire nation cast judgment on him.
Alex Rodriguez was put in a similar situation this summer when his divorce was highly publicized. There are countless factors that go into a divorce, and it is almost certain that reports on them will either be biased or wholly untrue. I sincerely doubt that the media was any help to Rodriguez or his wife in the process. He is a baseball player, not a politician. What good does it do me to know about A-Rod’s marital problems or Vince Young’s apparent mental instability?
We put these athletes on a pedestal, but in doing so we forget that they are entitled to some privacy as well. We as fans should cling to their play on the field rather than what is happening in their personal lives.
Often times when we hear about the media invading personal lives, it is with movie stars. It seems to me that although paparazzi can certainly get out of control, the invasion of actors’ and actresses’ personal lives is an important part of their work. Because of their high level of interaction, entertainers develop a closer relationship with their audience than athletes do with fans. An entertainer’s entire livelihood depends on their image being pleasing to people. That image includes what they do on and off screen.
Athletes, on the other hand, have a very different relationship with fans. Aside from legal issues, their image should not be as important. Their job is to battle against the top talent in the world.
A sports game is not played for entertainment. The athletes are there because they want to compete, not to entertain people. The point is that the relationship between the fan and the athlete does not extend beyond the playing field. Fans should admire these people for their play on the field, not for their successes and failures in family life.
Derek VerHagen is a senior entrepreneurial management major from Rockwall.