When Superman Becomes Just Clark Kent: Athletes Who Are Human After All

Cameon ShiflettSenior Analyst IDecember 29, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 27:  (L-R) Head coach Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and Ryan Stamper of the University of Florida Gators speak during a press conference on December 27, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Meyer is going to take a leave of absense from the team due to health concerns.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

For so many of us, we’ve had an athlete that has inspired some part of our life. They have impacted the way we play a sport, how we go about our daily lives and for some, even the decisions we make about our life and how we live it.

For me, Paul “Bear” Bryant is my inspiration. I know, typical of an Alabama fan, right?

However, Bryant being my inspiration has nothing to do with being an Alabama fan and everything to do with him being passionate about the sport he coached, the kids he influenced, and the people he loved. He didn’t back down, but instead persevered, and his records show that. He was an inspiration to many, regardless of their team affiliation, and he continues to be to this day.

There are a ton of athletes that people have to choose from to influence their lives. Babe Ruth was an influence to a lot of people when he was playing for the Yankees, Tim Tebow has influenced many during his time at Florida, and Joe Namath was an influence to people when he was playing for the Tide.

These people are our heroes in some ways. They are what we strive to be. They are the epitome of life as we know it. They are the "cling, cling, cling” we hear every time our bicycle wheel spins. They are the routine a pitcher goes through when he’s on the mound, hoping that some of that “amazingness” of their favorite pitcher will rub off if they do it the same way.

So what happens when we realize that these athletes are just like us? What happens when we realize that they are human after all?

Recently, there have been a lot of athletes (and coaches) that have proven to be human, and they’ve gotten more press for being human, than for being beyond human.

Tim Tebow cries at the SEC Championship at the end of the last chance he will have at a National Championship Title during his college football career, and the press hounds him. His “followers” hound him.

Suddenly, people see that this 23-year-old man is human. He isn’t invincible. He has emotions just like everyone else, and it was interesting to see how people reacted to his emotions compared to when he had that same reaction after the Ole Miss game the previous year.

Since it wasn’t after a loss with a promise to do better, he was criticized, t-shirts were made, posters were created…depicting something most of us do all the time when we lose something that we’ve worked hard to accomplish or something that we will miss.  

Tiger Woods hits a fire hydrant and the world as we know it, collapses. This athlete, once seen as someone that could stand the tests of adversity, knee surgery, and other obstacles is taken down by something that over half of all marriages suffer from in the United States.

He cheated on his wife. He suddenly becomes just like half the men in the world that think with the wrong head and he is criticized. He loses endorsements, t-shirts are made, and the popular Nike slogan “Just Do It,” becomes the company’s worst nightmare.

Florida coach Urban Meyer resigns from the Gators due to health reasons, and you would think Nick Saban had just landed in Tuscaloosa for the first time. A coach, at his peak with opportunities around the country and players everywhere wanting to play for his team, has to leave because of a health issue and jokes are made about him having a broken heart.

Assumptions are made that he must be going to Notre Dame or the pros. He can’t stop coaching, there just has to be another reason. His resigning (now leave of absence) couldn’t be true because it meant that this man was just like most people in the U.S.

We are quick to criticize these athletes and public figures for being human. Why? Is it because these men are supposed to be better than us? Is it because they provide for us what we don’t have? Is it because these men, seemingly always perfect and on a pedestal, have finally fallen to our level? Is it because now, we feel superior to them?

If any of that is true, then why are these people someone we look up to? Why are they allowed to influence the decisions we make? Why are our children allowed to get baseball cards with their faces on them? Why do we pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to go see them?

These men have proved they are human. They are just like me and you except with a talent that gets them more recognition than the talent you or I possess maybe get us. They get hurt, they cry, and they have health concerns. They have fights with their spouse, they can’t make up their mind on whether to retire or not, and they have moments where they scream.

These men are human. So why do we put so much on these men, and younger men, to carry the weight of the decisions we make and how we spend our lives?

Why do we yell and scream at them to do better at games? Why do they get cussed out on message boards for making mistakes? Why do we change how we do things, to how they do things, in hopes to become better?

They are only human. Just like me and you, except with a faster metabolism and for the most part, a lower body fat percentage. Yet, they carry the weight of the dreams and hopes of many on their shoulders, and it’s up to us to decide how we take it when they collapse under that pressure.


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