Sports And Drugs Essay, Research Paper
In twentieth-century America, sports became one of the most successful and exciting, but controversial cornerstones in American society. In the early years of the twentieth-century, America cheered both the players in professional baseball and the college football players at the nation s finest institutions of higher learning. As the game of baseball appealed to a greater number of Americans, its players became icons. They became role models for young children and topics of social discussion for Americans of all ages. Baseball built the foundation for what was to become a very profitable industry, the professional sports industry.
The sports industry has thus grown immensely over the years. In this industry, there have been winners and losers. The winners, the majority, have been those who worked hard on and off the field and devoted many hours of their time to better their image and their prospective league s image amongst the public. Twentieth-century sports were dominated by a number of great professional and amateur athletes, but more importantly they were run by a majority of sound personalities and quality people. The others, like some of today s athletes, come to the big time with their wallets full and some preconceived idea of what a sports hero should be they are handed $60 million contracts when they leave college. These are the losers, those who chose sports but chose a different path, the anti-role model path, and represent the downward slide or the backward shift in professional and amateur sports. This shift may come from misbehavior on or off the playing field, a lack of community involvement and or a lack of morals. These athletes do not promote the growth of sport, sportsmanship or the sense of teamwork. These athletes take a selfish approach to sport; they are only in the game for the money and themselves and not to make a difference. Neither the winner or the loser philosophy on sport was ever a prerequisite to entering professional sports, but like the 1997 Sportsman of the Year Mark McGwire said, you don t play sports thinking you are going to be a role model. You play because you are given talent. And the role model is something adopted. It comes with the job. The birth of professional baseball did not require role models, ball-club owners wanted good players, they wanted players that would draw fans and win games for their team so the organization would turn a profit-just like any other business. Just as owners did not expect players to become instant role models, players did not expect to either, just like McGwire said. In the early days, players were not necessarily their town s heroes or role model s; many players, just like many today, were average to below average students who occasionally got in trouble, but were generally just great athletes. It was the evolution of the industry that gave rise to sports figures as role models. Players did not look to become heroes, the media via radio, newspapers and later television helped create the sometimes-false illusion that these athletes were great people. The media expanded the players efforts on the field to a greater number of viewers and listeners than just the few that attended their games live, thus the role model became an evolution or modernization of the (twentieth-century) professional athlete.
Sports have given the average person the chance to elevate himself to levels beyond the fame, fortune and glamour of movie stars, government officials and wealthy business tycoons. They have given people who never had a chance to become scholars and academic achievers the chance to become wealthy as well as successful, respectful, role models for children of all ages. Sports have taken the poorest and unluckiest of individuals and given those individuals a second chance to start a new life and make a difference for someone else. Athletes like Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig and Jesse Owens in the 1920 s and 30 s; Joe Dimaggio, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson in the 1940 s, 50 s and 60 s were heroes for children in their day. Reporters from local and national papers and radio stations made these athletes out to be legends, men who made a living by playing a mindless game. As public icons, these players were living examples of what children wished to someday become. These children began to believe in these athletes, they began to see them as examples of what to be and what to aspire to be. They saw Babe Ruth as the greatest homerun hitter of all-time and imagined all great baseball players to be invincible. These professionals gave hope and encouragement to America s youth to become somebody somebody like Jackie Robinson, who opened the door to white-professional baseball for African-Americans across the country. Like yesterday s Robinson and Ruth, players of today like Mark McGwire and Cal Ripken, Jr. in baseball, Steve Young, Joe Montana and Kurt Warner in football, Grant Hill, Michael Jordan and David Robinson in basketball, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux in hockey, Pete Sampras in tennis and Carl Lewis in track, etc. have built solid public images that enable children of today to identify with and look up to. These positive images have enabled these players to amass great wealth and thrive as people, philanthropists and athletes. These role models are those who give professional athletes a good name.
Those athletes who have inspired and challenged America s youth to work hard are role models. They are people who take advantage of their position in the world as public figures to enhance the quality of life for those disadvantaged and in need. Role models are essential in sports and the sports industry. Those athletes who live unselfish lives and work to better the community around them are the winners. They are the ones that win the favor of the public and that of corporate America, which paid out more than $1 billion amongst 2,000 athletes in 1996, a number ten times greater than a decade ago, but more impressive is who earned that endorsement money.
Of the $203 million earned in endorsements and licensing income by the world s forty highest-paid athletes last year, $175 million went to athletes with sterling reputations. Super nice guys [Michael] Jordan, [Arnold] Palmer and Shaquille O Neal brought home over $70 million outside of their sports.
The majority of professional athletes has been and continues to be winners, guys who do not do obnoxious stunts to get the media s attention, like professional basketball player Dennis Rodman and former football player Brian Bosworth. For a while however, this bad boy image was a real moneymaker. In the August 20, 1990 edition Forbes magazine declared, Sports today: throw a tantrum, make a buck. However, this period of bad is good and good is boring was to be short lived and since the early 1990 s great athletes have had their endorsements stripped from them because of off the playing field problems like former NFL great O.J. Simpson, who, previous to June 1994, once had a good guy image, was dropped as a spokesman of Hertz Car Rental because of his double-felony murder charge; heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson who endorsed Pepsi and Kodak before being convicted of beating his wife and later jailed for rape; former NBA star Charles Barkley who openly confessed to the public in a Nike ad three years ago that he is not a role model (his endorsement deals have since been cut in half) and Dallas Cowboy s receiver Michael Irvin who was taken to court because he violated terms in his endorsement contract with Toyota, who paid him $120,000 to do commercials and eventually cost the car manufacturer $400,000 in production costs. FILA, proud sponsor of Grant Hill, also encountered a problem with another heavyweight boxer, Riddick Bowe, who was notorious for getting in fights with the media at press conferences while dressed in FILA sportswear (Randall, 1996). Like the movies, no matter how good the bad guys have it in the beginning, the good guys always win in the end.
These bad guy athletes were part of fad marketing, according to David Falk, Michael Jordan s business manager; meaning their acts like Rodman s cross-dressing and outlandish behavior and Agassi s longhaired loud neon look, which he has since changed, were only temporary successes because a lot people and marketing agencies saw nice guys as boring and not exciting. Piercings, tattoos and bad-boy behavior was the fad during much of the late 1980 s and early to mid-1990 s. However, fads, like Agassi s bad boy image, only last so long, says Falk, and are replaced with the good guy image like that of Pete Sampras. For example, Rodman s name may come up 18,300 times on a Lexis-Nexis database search compared to about 6,000 for former golf-pro Arnold Palmer, but Palmer is still making $15 million in endorsements long after his career compared to Rodman s $2 million (Randall, 1996). The numbers prove good guys win in the long run, like that of baseball player Cal Ripken, Jr. and tennis player Pete Sampras. Ripken, in three years, increased his endorsements from $1 million to $6 million and Sampras, in four years, increased his endorsements from $4 million to $8 million. Professionals Tiger Woods (golf) and Grant Hill (basketball) are also examples of good guys who made it big. Woods entered his first PGA tournament carrying a $60 million endorsement deal with Nike and Titlelist and Hill, even after a brief introduction to the NBA from dirty player Bill Laimbeer continued to live his life as a good guy and was later quoted, I am a role model. Hill signed a $25 million deal with FILA and has helped give rise to FILA s growth in sales, 37% in 1995 and 40% in 1996, to $750 million and increase in stock price from a dismal fifteen dollars per share to seventy-five as of December 1996 (Randall, 1996). Other role model athletes that have hit it big with companies have been the San Francisco 49 s quarterback Steve Young, a non-drinker and smoker, who made $4 million in 1996; pro-tennis player Andre Agassi who once was tennis s bad boy but has since cooled down and changed his image and his contracts which now pay him $13 million opposed to the $4.5 million he made before appearing on Forbes magazine s cover. As for former athletes with good guy (person) images, the money keeps rolling in; Joe Montana and Nolan Ryan both earn about $4 million a year and former women s tennis great and full-time mother Chris Evert earns about $2 million a year. Endorsement deals seem to change as the mood of the country changes, and suddenly, being a nice person is not boring-its good, says Mark McCormack, president of the sports marketing giant International Management Group.
The losers in sports, like Rodman, have been those in high profile positions that have had, but have not taken advantage of the opportunity to better peoples perceptions of not only them, but also the sport they represent. These athletes are those who do not consider the consequences of their actions, they are the criminals of sport they steal from themselves and they steal from others who have built trust and faith in them as athletes and as people. The classic loser in sport is the cheater, to be more precise the drug user, the athlete who looks for a shortcut because he is not willing to dedicate himself to the hard work required to be the best and therefore needs to find some alternative to get an advantage, which he finds in performance enhancing drugs. Athletes who use painkillers, steroids or any form of performance enhancing drug not prescribed for medical reasons is a phony, an athlete looking for the easy way out and a quicker route to success. They are the ones who take the purity out of sport and create an artificial environment not based on hard work, but instead on science, technology and money.
American sports have had many great role models: role models that have preached about the dangers of drug use and violence, role models who have raised significant amounts of money for charities, etc. However, through time, athletes, even role models, have abused or become addicted to drugs and do so in order to enhance their performance, kill the pain they receive from their sport or for social reasons. This includes some of the finest athletes of the twentieth-century, whom of which have fallen into the deep, dark hole known as addiction. Addiction is not just a battle it is a war, it is a war that many athletes have waged on themselves. Drugs take control of people s lives, some of them are deceiving and never appear to be a threat, but to the addicted they seem to be the answer, the solution, and many times your best friend. Some of these drugs come in what we seem to think are innocent forms because we see them everyday. These are the dangerous drugs, these are the ones we take for granted and because they are legal, we think they are safe, why else would the government allow us to purchase them? Alcohol, a depressant, is probably the most camouflaged of them all. Baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, arguably one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, was what many today would call, a booze hound. Baseball s Denny McClain, the last thirty-game winner, Billy Martin, former Yankee Manager and teammate of Mantle s, Dwight Gooden, the Mets pitching phenom of the 1980 s and Golf s John Daly all great athletes and sports people, but also all alcoholics.