The relationship between a player and a fan is certainly unique. In no other relationship do neither of the parties meet, yet so much is on the line. Fans are the reason sports exist. They’re responsible for the heart, the soul, the excitement and, most importantly, the revenue, of the sport. Fans don’t ask for much in return. Mainly, they only expect trust. They simply want to know that they are watching players who are honest and legitimate. Most importantly, fans hope that players who they’ve worshipped as heroes and all-stars have not been duping them the whole time.
2013 has certainly put a thorn into those relationships. During the last few weeks, we have seen three of the most recognizable sports figures in the world fall from grace. The fans that put so much faith into these athletes have been tricked and fooled into believing in a
Lance Armstrong was one of the first athletes this year to be accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. The
cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France champion is probably the only recognizable professional bike rider, but it turns out that he depended on doping for his success. His elaborate schemes to hide the fact that he was doping covered up the scandal for an unbelievably long period of time. Eventually, though, the truth surfaced. The man who was behind the Livestrong bracelets, singlehandedly putting professional bicycling on the map and giving hope to several cancer patients, turned out to be a fraud.
As disgraceful as Lance Armstrong’s story is, the recent news concerning Alex Rodriguez may be worse. After being a superstar for the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, Rodriguez and his reputation were tarnished when he admitted to doping a few years ago. To say that people had begun to forgive him is a little na??ve considering the unfavorable receptions he would receive in opposing ballparks, but many Yankee fans (myself included) were able to push this part of his life aside and keep rooting for him. In fact, his performance has been so poor lately that everyone around baseball was convinced that he couldn’t be doping anymore.
However, Rodriguez, along with MLB stars Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz, were recently implicated in a doping scandal that stemmed from a Florida dealer. Unlike Armstrong, Rodriguez has not yet admitted his guilt (for a second time), but if the allegations are true, Rodriguez may develop a worse reputation than Armstrong. The people that forgave
A-Rod the first time were played
like fools. Again.
Ray Lewis is last in this parade of putridity. His journey to the Super Bowl in his final year before retirement is a perfect Hollywood script. After suffering a tricep injury, Lewis recovered more quickly than expected, leaving him healthy enough to play through the whole playoffs. During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, though, a report surfaced that he had used deer antler extract that is supposed to reduce recovery time from injuries. His Cinderella story of making the playoffs had been ruined.
The Ravens had been floundering before the playoffs, and some would even say they “backed-in.” However, once playoff time came, the heart and soul of their defense returned, and suddenly the Ravens were Super Bowl champions. Beyond that, people were beginning to forgive him for his alleged involvement in the heavily publicized murder case
It was too good to be true. The notion of athletes cheating is not a new one; what’s changed is our ability to catch the cheaters. Athletes have to know that if they cheat, they will be caught and the reputation they worked to build, the fans they won over and the hardware they won, will all be tarnished.
What prompts these athletes to cheat? It could be the pressure to succeed or the thought of millions of fans watching you perform. It could be the sense of invincibility that athletes sometimes have as professionals. It could be the quest for fame. It could be because several other athletes are using performance-enhancing drugs, or it could be because athletes don’t think they will be caught.
No matter the reason, though, there’s always one result: a hard slap in the face to the fans.