Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

By Stanley H. Teitelbaum | Go to book overview

Introduction

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-

-xi-

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Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1. the Need for Heroes 1
  • 2. the Psyche of the Athlete 17
  • 3. Baseball Gambling Scandals 33
  • 4. Football Gambling Scandals 58
  • 5. Basketball Gambling Scandals 69
  • 6. Self-Destructive Athletes 101
  • 7. Athletes and Violence toward Women 138
  • 8. Athletes and Murder 178
  • 9. Violence between Athletes 197
  • 10. Athletes’ Mental Health Problems 220
  • Epilogue 240
  • Notes 249
  • Index 265
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