The American fascination with celebrity has gone too far. It encompasses nearly everybody in the public spotlight and robs them of their privacy while hindering them from performing the duties for which we elevated them to the stature of demigods in the first place. When somebody gets paid a large sum of money for a certain skill, people start to think that they now have the right to hold that person to some set of standards. But why? We’re not the ones paying them. And those who are paying them aren’t doing so in order for them to be moral exemplars, but to run faster, jump higher, and make that catch that nobody else can.
We elevate athletes to a level of superherodom (I made that word up myself), and then get surprised when they take performance-enhancing drugs in order to keep up with our growing expectations of elite performance. Then we start to judge. We claim that their cheating is ruining the sanctity of the game. And we pretend as if the voice of the masses urging them to be better and better has nothing to do with their actions. But at least taking steroids is relevant to the job athletes are hired for.
We’ve begun to judge sports figures on a whole new plane that is completely foreign to their job description. The NBA has regulations for how players must dress before games and at press conferences. NFL players pay exorbitant fines for celebrating too exuberantly on the field, and for excessive partying in their spare time.
I don’t care who Tiger Woods has sex with, who Brett Favre wants to show his penis to, or whether Plaxico Burress wants to shoot himself in the leg. All I care about – and all anyone else should care about – is whether they sink putts and score touchdowns. This is what they’re paid massive amounts of money to do: not to be paragons of moral decency.