It's a sad truth, but inordinate fascination with oneself is hardly reason to single out a professional athlete or high-paid coach. You could make a pretty safe argument that egocentricity has become the rule rather than the exception amongst those two groups.
Nevertheless, individuals come and go who distinguish themselves even from the swell-headed pack. Sometimes, a dynamic duo wrangled for the self-love spotlight.
Thanks to Milton Bradley and Rick Pitino, we have such a scenario on our hands.
Though, in truth, it's not much of a fight—the Louisville Cardinals' head coach has Uncle Miltie walloped since his transgression is far worse and his conceit more incredible.
Hence, let's turn to Mr. Bradley first.
As Bleacher Report Senior Writer Tab Bamford points out, Bradley proclaimed himself a changed man. According to the new Milton Bradley, the world no longer seemed to be against him...until he started playing poorly.
Brought in to rake the Chicago Cubs to the next level, the oft-maligned outfielder has waited until August to break out the splendid splinter. Unfortunately, the Cubbies needed him a shade sooner to make the next level...You know, since they've held the National League Central in a stranglehold the last two years.
With their glittering new acquisition either slumping or hurt for much of the season, the not-so-Lovable Losers have tossed and turned. Yet they've found no road to contention, and now the strain seems to be catching up with them.
Meanwhile, the understandably upset Cub fans have turned on the prickly talent wearing No. 21.
Bradley, opting against discretion and the aforementioned maturity, has returned the favor—he's taken to the airwaves claiming racism and idiocy on the part of the Chicago fans, he's taunting them when they finally do cheer for him, and is generally carrying on like the same old Milton Bradley.
Which is where the narcissism comes in.
Milton Bradley wants special rules applied to him. He wants to come to the ballpark, get his millions of dollars, and be adored regardless of performance or past histrionics. He wants every call to go his way, and he can't abide mistakes. By others.
He demands perfection by his handlers, and when it doesn't happen, he throws a tantrum—physical or verbal.
What Uncle Miltie doesn't understand is that such kid gloves aren't applied to most athletes, and the guys who get the special treatment have earned it. They've earned it by playing hard, producing, and doing it in one place for a long time.
They haven't done it by being a hired gun, hopping from franchise to franchise.
That guy has to prove worthy on the field before he gets the benefit of the doubt, and Bradley hasn't done it.
I'm not condoning the racial epithets that I think we can all believe are being tossed at Bradley—such behavior is abhorrent. Nor do I think that opinion is in the minority.
Yet the fact remains that fans are sheltered by their anonymity for the most part. It's not as if the Wrigley Field officials aren't trying to eradicate the behavior. I'm sure they're doing everything reasonable to address it.
But there will always be drunken morons with limited vocabulary, breeding too close to the family gene pool, looking for pressure points, and protected by the chaos of the crowd. Even these misfiring synapses realize racial remarks stand a good chance of getting under a player's skin.
Bradley needs to realize an adult sees the lunatic fringe for what it is and dismisses it as easily because all the complaining in the world won't control what jackasses say. He needs to heed the advice of those around him and ignore the catcalls since that is the easiest way to make them go away (much easier than actually playing to expectations).
Milton Bradley needs to take it like the man he promised he was. Instead, the soon-to-be-ex-Cub goes popping off at the mouth and gesturing at the fans.
However, Bradley's misadventures are cartoon tomfoolery next to Rick Pitino.
If you haven't seen the actual press conference, you should check it out along with Jason Whitlock's article.
As I alluded to in the opening, Slick Rick's hypocritical attempt at self-victimization is astounding even by modern standards of vanity.
Throughout the entirety of his violin playing, Ricky Booby never once mentioned that he cheated on his wife with some psychotic waitress. For obvious reasons, he stayed well away from the subject—though I believe he referenced his "mistake" once or twice.
Only a man who truly believed himself unrestrained by the standards of mere mortals could stand comfortably in front of millions of eyes as an admitted adulterer, a father of five, and chastise someone else while the scandal is still breaking.
Only that individual could say, with a straight face, that the public is tired of the story. That it's time to focus on some "important" things like the economy and some "really crucial" stuff like basketball (it's possible Pitino was kidding when he said that, but...).
Only that individual could triumphantly emphasize that he was disobeying his employer (the University of Louisville), his legal counsel, and the United States of America—all of which had advised him to keep his damn trap shut.
Pitino couldn't suffer his righteous need to set the record straight and spank those reporting the falsities: Lies, lies, and more damned lies!
Yo, Mr. Proud-New-Yorker-Who-Loves-Kentucky-As-Much-As-It's-Possible, they're all telling you to zip it because the fact that your tartlet is lying does not matter as far as newsworthiness goes—They're telling you to shut the f*** up because they know your flapping gums will only get you in deeper.
See, every word out of this woman's mouth is fair game because every word reflects the kind of character this woman is. It gives a better picture of the kind of woman for whom Rick Pitino broke his marital bonds, as well as the magnitude of his error.
Whether Pity Me Pitino likes it or not, his table-top sexcapade as a high-paid, high-profile University representative makes this chippie's character the very definition of newsworthy—regardless of veracity or even direct relevance.
So all of Rick's family and friends reading the salacious headlines in the New York tabloids? All his wife's embarrassment regarding the same? None of that is on the media—it's on Rick Pitino.
The media did not say "I do" to Pitino's wife, nor did it bang some waitress du jour. Rick did it, then he tried to cover it up, and now he's trying to cover up the cover-up.
It's not working.
His attempt to hide behind everything from Teddy Kennedy's death to his wife's heartbreak is as hollow as his pandering to the group he proceeds to scapegoat.
But this is all common sense stuff, conclusions drawn from simple observations and a perspective rooted in the real world.
Which makes it the germ of revelation to guys like Milton Bradley and Rick Pitino.
Because their perspective is not one firmly secured to reality. They see only distorted reflections from mirrors dominated by their own images. By their self-adulation.
It eventually doomed Narcissus, and it will get them, too.