Ath-le-brities All Over

J. Andrew LockwoodContributor INovember 14, 2009

GEORGETOWN, KY - JULY 31:  Chad Ochocinco #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals is pictured during the Bengals training camp at Georgetown College on July 31, 2009 in Georgetown, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Ath∙le∙brity – (1) one that plays collegiate or professional sports while capitalizing on the media’s coverage of the team and his/her performance for personal benefit (2) Chad Ochocinco (3) Terrell Owens

We might as well define the term that seems to pervade our sports world these days. From the Falcon’s tight end Tony Gonzalez posing nude with his wife in a PETA ad, to the Bengal’s Ochocinco promising a shipment of mustard to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers because they can’t "ketchup" to the Bengals in the standings, the gimmicks of professional athletes are officially a bit over the top.

It wasn’t that long ago when we thought a Terrell Owens touchdown celebration was a bit much. Now, it seems more and more athletes are using the media outlets, and opportunities around them, to capitalize on their fame. Why else would we care about mentioning a naked man in a PETA ad, much less a shipment of mustard?

While society continues to progress, and technology continues to bring us closer and closer to the athletes we love, sometimes we should take a line out of the movie Angels in the Outfiel d and state “Less is more, Ranch, less is more.”

It’s true that media methods are changing these days. Just recently's No. 1 college basketball recruit Harrison Barnes (Ames, IA) committed to North Carolina via Skype with head coach Roy Williams. I guess it only makes sense that the same tool we get all of our sporting information, YouTube videos, and access to our favorite teams is the same tool being chosen by the actual recruit himself.

Athletes are certainly recognizable in the general public these days, thus resulting in their celebrity status. You think Florida quarterback Tim Tebow can enjoy a nice pizza at the local parlor in Gainesville without getting hounded by autograph seekers? Forget about it.

My only question is, when is enough…enough? Shouldn’t athletes be a little more concerned about their game and team rather than coming up with the next buzz topic on sports radio and blogs? Ochocinco gets paid $3,550,000 to practice at most 3-4 hours per day, and play football on Sundays. In essence, he’s a product of our own making, because we can’t seem to get enough of sports these days.

Don’t misunderstand me; it’s not the athlete’s fault. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be an Athlebrity? More attention equals more money over the long run, and more attention also fills stadiums and boosts television ratings. I just find it somewhat disappointing that many professional and college games are preceded by WWE-like talking by players and coaches in the media.

And all of the talking before games? Again, a product of our own making. It’s intriguing that a few words in the media from our favorite Athlebrities make us want to tune into the big game in the same way we wanted to witness a showdown slugfest at recess in grammar school. We reward talk.

Sometimes Athlebrities’ talk to each other ,and what they hear from their influences comes back to haunt them. Take for example Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach’s latest interview after a recent loss to Texas A&M. In his post-game interview with the media Leach said that the players needed to stop listening to their "fat little girlfriends", and instead heed the advice his coaching staff (the interview itself is of a complex nature especially considering that Leach is an Athlebrity himself among college football head coaches for his hilarious interviews with the media).

While Leach may have a point about his team, the truth is that Athlebrities will only become even more commonplace in the sports media if the current trends continue. If you want to continue to hear their ridiculousness in the daily news, buy their jersey and support their cause. If you care enough about Gonzalez’s nude body, go picket for PETA (or do whatever else you can do to support their cause). As for me though, I think I’ll just watch my favorite athletes on the field and leave it at that.

Please note that the Athlebrities I have described are in no way connected to (a site that focuses on Athletes and their charitable contributions to society).