Sports Hero or Villain? Which Is Better?

Corey Walker@coreyalexander5Contributor IIJanuary 29, 2013

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 17:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Jets warms up prior to the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on December 17, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As sports fans, we never quite completely grow up. Although we may outgrow comic books and cartoons, sports icons often take the place of the “hero” or “villain” role that is missing in our lives. Whether it is deserved or not, certain coaches and players will be seen in a more positive or negative light than others.

Sports heroes are typically those that make us “feel good.” Perhaps they’re an underdog who succeeded despite the odds, like Jeremy Lin. Or they are usually considered a “class act,” have a pleasant demeanor, and rarely have scandals attached to their name, like Peyton Manning.

Today’s ultimate sports hero, Tim Tebow, is never short on supporters. Although his performance during his stint as the Denver Broncos starting quarterback was statistically horrendous, Tebow became an instant celebrity. According to the Davie-Brown Index, Tim Tebow is the fourth most coveted celebrity endorsement, only trailing Oprah Winfrey, Adele, and Kate Middleton. That’s not bad considering that he struggled to complete at least 50 percent of his passes in most games. Tebow essentially became the NFL’s Kim Kardashian: minimal talent, maximum exposure.

However, heroes like Peyton Manning, Jeremy Lin, and Tim Tebow don't win on the consistent basis. Peyton Manning is 9-10 in the playoffs. Tim Tebow did not get significant playing time with the Jets. And Jeremy Lin is finally being exposed as an average point guard.

Losing is necessary to be a hero, because people tend to root for those who aren't always successful. Losing humanizes sports icons. It makes them more relatable.

Sports Villains are usually one of three things:

1. They are so good that people are envious of your accomplishments like Mike Krzyzewski or Tom Brady.

2, They usually are considered arrogant and hurt their team with their antics, like Terrell Owens.

3. They are beloved but they are exposed in a scandal that irreparably damages their name, like Lance Armstrong or Joe Paterno.

Today’s athlete that people love to hate is LeBron James. He went from the lovable phenom that seemed destined to take Cleveland, an unglamorous and championship-starved city, to success. However, he decided to bolt Cleveland for star-studded Miami in an unnecessary television special that made him seem narcissistic and cruel. Although he won his championship last year, not many people were happy to see that happen.

It is not always clear whether it is better to be considered a “hero” or “villain.” The determining factor seems to be “image.” It is not better to be considered to be a villain if you destroyed your reputation like Pete Rose. However, if you are hated because you consistently win, that’s not a bad thing

It is better to be a successful villain, because people will always tend to hate those who succeed. That’s just human nature.

It’s like what my mother always told me, “If people don’t like you, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing something right.”