Over at The Herald: Can we trust the modern day athlete?

Can we trust the modern day athlete?

Cole Benz | Editor
Cole Benz | Editor

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

Can we trust the modern day athlete?

Recently, a report filed by an independent investigator said New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady was ‘at least generally aware’ about deflated footballs prior to the AFC Championship game this year. Deflategate, as it’s been dubbed, could result in a suspension of Brady and others associated with the incident.

My opinions on this specific issue is for another article or conversation.

No, this incident speaks to a much larger issue. How can we trust professional athletes?

Over the past decade we have had some of the greatest in professional sports fall from glory over cheating scandals.

In 2005, Jose Canseco released a book detailing the rampant steroid use in professional baseball. Two years later The Mitchell Report was released and uncovered even more star players allegedly using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

But the dust seemed to settle, and after new drug regulations and testing procedures were installed by Major League Baseball (MLB) it was thought that the ‘steroid era’ was over.

We thought wrong.

It was uncovered by a Sports Illustrated senior writer that Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for banned substances during a 2003 survey of MLB players. The test was to see how bad the use of PEDs was in baseball.

Rodriguez was, in my opinion, really hard for baseball to see fall from grace. He was on an explosion of home run hitting that could have had him surpassing Barry Bonds (who has also seen his reputation fall with his alleged affiliation with PEDs) as the career leader of home runs. Rodriguez was supposed to be the one to break the records as a ‘clean player,’ yet evidence now points to the contrary.

The heartbreak of seeing a superstar fall from grace isn’t relegated to the sport of baseball.

Lance Armstrong was on top of the world. Having battled back from testicular cancer metastasizing to his brain, he won the Tour de France seven straight times.

But it was all for naught, when a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey aired, during which Armstrong admitted to using PEDs, most recently in 2005 and during all seven of his Tour de France wins.

What hurt the most about Armstrong was his Livestrong Foundation (formerly the Lance Armstrong Foundation). The little yellow bracelets issued by the foundation became a symbol of what Armstrong had overcame. He beat his cancer, and went on to be the greatest cyclist in the world. It gave hope to millions of people in the world who were affected by cancer in some form or another.

But after Armstrong’s drug abuse had been detailed, along with his eventual confession, it is hard to say those wristbands hold the same meaning for people today.

The timing from one cheating revelation to another is peculiar. It seems like every two to three years another breaking news segment is covering someone who was busted for enhancing their performance illegally. Those few years of separation is just enough time for the public to relax their defenses, then BOOM, we’re hit with a new one.

With all of these (and more) sports scandals coming to light through the media, a question bodes well for this subject. Can we trust the modern day athlete?

How can we?

We put our hearts and souls into watching and cheering for our favorite player, only to see information that shows their performance wasn’t natural.

And why should we trust them?

There is so much money at stake for the athletes, even outside their annual contracted salary, namely performance bonuses.

Rodriguez is set to receive a $6 million bonus for hitting his 660th home run of his career, tying Willie Mays for fourth all-time. So perhaps that’s what drove Rodriguez to allegedly enhance his performance.

And do you think Armstrong made more money by growing his brand through winning all those Tour de Frances? Of course he did!

But money doesn’t always drive everything. Sometimes it’s that desire to be on top of the world.

“I had to win…I’d made winning my whole life, and when you make winning your whole life, you have to keep on winning, no matter what.”

Words uttered by John Candy’s character Irv Blitzer to his star bobsledder in the movie “Cool Runnings” when asked why he cheated.

I’m not trying to make assumptions about another person, but Brady seemingly doesn’t need more money, as he’s married to supermodel Gisele Bündchen whose income reportedly surpasses Brady’s.

So what is left in this equation? What would entice Brady to allegedly alter the pressure of the footballs? Winning.

The sad part of watching these athletes fall is the impact it has on the fans.

Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Tom Brady. He was drafted in the sixth round (pick 199) and he rose through the ranks to be a 4-time Superbowl Winning quarterback, and I do own a Tom Brady jersey.

But how can I wear it now?

Whenever I put it on, any Brady hater can ridicule me. What recourse do I have? How can I defend his alleged affiliation with this type of scandal? Truth be told I will continue to don the jersey when appropriate, because I still do like the player and because I’m too cheap to merely dispose of an expensive authentic NFL jersey.

So what now? Do we continue to trek forward and just hope we aren’t going to see another athlete break our trust?

Yes, yes we do.

But maybe next time we don’t have to be so surprised. Because it’s something that is going to be a part of sports forever, I mean isn’t there always someone looking for ‘that edge?’

I mentioned three athletes that won our hearts only to see them drop and break like brittle porcelain.

And if I were a betting man, I’d put money on this happening again.

Because can we really trust the modern day athlete?

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