Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

By Stanley H. Teitelbaum | Go to book overview

2. The Psyche of the Athlete

A successful player’s ego swells as he progresses and
leaves behind the real world of ordinary people.

Bernie Parrish, They Call It a Game

Sports heroes frequently develop unrealistic views of themselves that are encouraged and reinforced when an adoring world treats them as elite. For many players a sense of specialness is central to their identity, strongly influencing their expectations from the world and their treatment of others. Although they may be giants as athletes, many sports stars have trouble relinquishing this image in daily life. Their personal interactions are often colored by this inflated view of themselves. It requires great emotional maturity to maintain relationships based on equality and reciprocity when you are surrounded by people eager to anticipate your every need.

Many star athletes have been catered to since childhood and have come to accept special treatment as their due. Celebrity status can be intoxicating, and as athletes come to believe in their press clippings, they feed off the constant attention and acclaim bestowed on them. The roar of the fans becomes necessary to their survival—a form of emotional oxygen. Pumped up by such affirmation and applause, they feel like royalty, and they often exist in an unreal sports heaven. When you are among the high-flying adored, your view of the world becomes blurred. Off the field, some act as if they are above the rules of society; hubris and an attitude of entitlement (“I can do whatever I want”) become central to the psyche of many athletes. They may deny that they are vulnerable to reprisals and feel omnipotent and grandiose as well as entitled.

Our earliest image of ourselves is shaped by our caretakers. When parents respond lovingly to them, children gradually internalize a picture of themselves as lovable. Thus, how we think about ourselves is a product of cues we absorb from the world around us.

Many professional athletes are groomed from an early age to view

-17-

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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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