Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols


On the court and on the field, they are the world's winners, exhibiting a natural grace and prowess their adoring fans can only dream about. Yet so often, when off the field, our sports heroes lose: their perspective, their balance, their place. In a work as timely as the latest fracas on the basketball court or the most recent drug-induced scandal in the dugout, Stanley H. Teitelbaum looks into the circumstances behind so many star athletes' precipitous fall from grace. Why, he asks, do these sports heroes who seem to have it all also seem, increasingly, to have a superhuman proclivity for self-destruction? In his psychotherapy practice, Teitelbaum has worked extensively with professional athletes and sports agents- work he draws on here for insight into the psyche of sports figures as well as the off-the-field challenges they face. Considering both historical and current cases, he shows how, in many instances, the very factors that elevate athletes to superstardom can contribute to their downfall: the adulation of fans and obsessive attention of the media and the distorted self-image and personal demons that often accompany a headlong drive to succeed. An evenhanded and honest look at athletes who have faltered, Teitelbaum's work helps us see past our sports stars' exalted image into what that image- and its frailty- says about our society and ourselves.


This book is about sports stars who fall from the pinnacle where they have been perched. It is about gifted athletes who lose it: lose their perspective, lose their balance, lose their appropriateness. the glory, adulation, and wealth they have acquired do not necessarily protect them from personal lapses that compromise their image and sometimes even their lives. Some by-products of fame can encourage athletes’ destructive behavior toward themselves or others.

A hero-hungry public craves a connection to sports icons; the media help create heroes whose image is larger than life and who are expected to be perfect; and athletes often buy into their exalted image and develop a powerful sense of entitlement. the combination of these factors creates a climate in which there is little room to stumble.

Under pressure from their inner demons or as an outgrowth of a distorted self-image that encourages them to believe they have a free pass to do whatever they want, some of our sports heroes behave in ways that have profound and damaging consequences. Abuse of women and other violence including sexual assaults and murder have become commonplace reflections of their destructiveness toward others. Gambling, substance abuse, alcoholism, and drug-related crimes highlight the self-destructiveness of some of our most cherished stars. Under the glare of the modern media spotlight, we are frequently forced to recognize our heroes as flawed. in some cases this occurs while an athlete is at the height of his career; sometimes the luster becomes tarnished later or even posthumously.

We tend to anoint our sports heroes as gods because we need the feeling of specialness we get from affiliation with outstanding athletes. We need to perceive them as wonderful, through a tinted lens that en-

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