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Phony Phelps Phans? On the subject of our appreciation for person athletic.

10/12/2008

This isn’t specifically about how legitimate some fans of Michael Phelps are, but of the overall legitimacy of some fan’s appreciation for those they claim to admire.

Some athletes achieve great accomplishments, and are of popular appeal to the masses; they are prodigies, seeming to commit few noteable errors throughout their public lives. Other athletes fail routinely in their public, and sometimes their private, lives, but they must ultimately overcome the obstacles of one or both of the worlds, public and private, in which they live, or they could not achieve the same level of admiration people have for them as they have for the prodigy class of athletes.

But the reason for this is simple: Most people will never truely know the latter person, and both will more than likely be seen as prodigies, accepted for the flaws they have only after they have cemented in people’s minds their respective greatnesses. Errors can be easy to forgive in light of lost entertainment, so rejection of this person becomes less a possibility when it risks his decision to retire from the world where he is most desired. He is, in a sense, the accordian player’s monkey.

How many of us follow an athlete early while he is still developing his skills? How many of us, if we did not see their successes first, would be so quick to push aside, let alone forgive, his vices and criminal offenses? Are all the icons of the sports world pure? Certainly not.

What matters most for the validity of a claim of admiration for an athlete, is to know him beyond the headlines and records that pertain only to what he has managed on the field, and to have done so before he became the masterful player he is now, or to have at least not have accepted him as heroic before any amount of knowledge of his imperfections was known to us.

Records are breakable, therefor it is the name, more so than the person, that owns them for an indefinite time. When removed from his record, the names Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, etc., have no significance to most of us. But those names, all names, have a story, some more even more interesting than the record of any star athlete; others, of no interest whatsoever. But all of them are unique in someway, and define the persons to which they belong more than having the best batting average, most yards rushed in a single, etc.

The question to ask, then, is do you admire the person or record?

As for me, I am really not much of a sports fan, and have never had heros. The person I admire most, is a close friend, a single mother whose helped me a lot, and who I don’t really deserve to know.

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