Great Expectations: Why Do We Let Athletes Let Us Down?

Arturo GuerraCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2010

It is funny how athletes today are chastised and ridiculed in the media for decisions they make, things they say, and how they act in the public. From Big Ben's problems in Pittsburgh, to Haynesworth's "holdout",  to the many transgressions of Tiger Woods, it seems that athletes left and right are letting us all down.

The question is, why do we expect so much from them?

Most of us who follow sports have never walked in their shoes, never had thousands of admirers and groupies, never been paid and given so much to do something that came fairly natural to us; yet we are all sometimes quick to judge each misstep, quick to point out each fault.

The reality is that these great athletes have been trained and have practiced—not to mention given some natural ability—to be great at their craft, and really have had little training anywhere else. They have been trained to hit 340 yard drives, to make the clutch free throw, to hit the receiver in stride. That is what they get paid to do.  

Why is it that we also expect them to share our same morals and ideals as well? Do we expect the Pope to give a powerful sermon and afterwards go rain threes at Rucker Park? Do we expect Bill Gates to be able to shoot a 66 at Augusta after he toils away at Microsoft all day?

Most likely not, but we still expect Kobe Bryant to drop 40 points on any given NBA team, sign autographs after a game for an hour, speak eloquently at a press conference, volunteer his free time to numerous charities, and avoid any and all situations that would put him in any remote trouble. And if he misses even one of those things, he will get killed for it by the fans and the media.

Somewhere along the way, we have expected too much of these athletes, and this has caused many of them to portray themselves to the media as something they are not. Each athlete press conference, you can almost guess what the are going to say verbatim, how they will act in front of the lights. But this just suppresses what they really may be, and when the truth comes out about them (which in this day and age will happen sooner than later), it makes it all the more shocking to the public while creating more outrage.  

I think we would all like to think that athletes try their best at all times, are genuine in all thoughts and actions, are always thinking team first, and are always giving back to the community.  

But I think it is best to be realistic. In your chosen profession, do you always think about the company first? Do you spend your time giving back to the community? Would you take a pay cut if it would help your company make budget?  

To say that athletes who get paid millions of dollars have more of an obligation to act a certain way in society is a farce; we all have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in an appropriate manner. It is an easy out to say athletes have been given money so have more of a responsibility to act in a decent manner, when we all know that in reality, acting in a decent and respectable manner has nothing to do with money.

I am not saying athletes are not role models, they are. And you know what? You are a role model too, and so am I, and we all make mistakes and we all have success.

Somewhere along the way, we decided that athletes are required to be perfect, and if they were not, then it was perfectly OK to spell out in excruciating detail what they did wrong and what we didn't agree with.

Somewhere along the way, the expectations that we place on professional athletes became too much for anyone to bear.