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While easy to envy UFC, basketball and other sporting stars, pointing to invasions of privacy, dehumanisation and injury, Alexander Porter questions whether the fame is all it’s cracked up to be.
Australia’s past time.
The great equaliser. Physical poetry. A world inhabited by athletes fine-tuned to succeed, to the point of appearing almost super human. Throw in the financial gains that dwarf the income of us regular folk and you have a world that is truly the envy of all…
Or is it?
Let’s delve into the latest sports stories of 2015 and find out.
As we kick things off with the UFC (bad pun intended), the company – valued at $3.5 billion according to UFC president Dana White – will be heading to Australia in May, bringing with it the first UFC event held in Adelaide. Organisers expect to bring in a capacity 12,000 strong crowd to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, all of whom will be hoping adopted Aussie Mark Hunt, (he was technically born in Auckland but that’s never stopped us from claiming Kiwis as our own before,) can rack up a big win on home soil. With UFC headliners earning upwards of $500,000 for winning main event fights it would seem the sport of fighting one another would well and truly be the envy of us mere mortals, the majority of whom are unwilling to get our faces punched in for half a million dollars. If that is the case, then spare a thought for the latest MMA Company launched out of Russia. Rather than use the traditional methods of fighting, M-1 Global has announced plans to stage fights between two “fully armed knights.” Or as the M-1 officials put it: “wear armour of medieval warriors and use replicas of ancient swords with blunt razor to fight each other.” Suddenly this sport doesn’t seem so glamorous.
Bouncing on to the topic of basketball (two paragraphs and two puns now), as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant expresses his displeasure to the media. The 2013-2014 NBA MVP signed a five-year deal with Oklahoma City worth a reported $85 million dollars, yet all the money in the world isn’t enough to stop his feelings being hurt. Following his breakthrough MVP win last year, Durant delivered a heartfelt and poignant acceptance speech in which he thanked his mother saying, “We weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate and went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You’re the real MVP.” Despite this beautiful moment of eloquence, the internet was quick to pounce on his final line, “You’re the real MVP,” attaching his face and those widely repeated four words to a wide range of memes. It seems the collective satire of the Internet was lost upon Durant though, who revealed in a recent GQ interview that he did not find them funny. Durant went on to say, “I was like, man, that was a real emotional moment for me, and you making a joke about it!” Not only that but those who used his words out of context had “no morals” and cared about “nothing but just making fun.” So let that be a lesson to us all. The glamorous celebrity lifestyle of the NBA might seem like one of the best workplaces on earth, but it’s not, it’s a place where people’s feelings get seriously hurt. Looks like basketball envy is out too.
These two stories have set a tough precedent. Sport can be embarrassing and downright hurtful. But at least it’s not really affecting the day to day lives of its stars. Unless you are NFL star Delanie Walker. Then it is. Walker is a current star for the Tennessee Titans, one of 32 teams in the American National Football League. He is also, according to his Instagram account, a huge cheater. Picture the scenario, if you will. You’re a huge star. Your salary is comparable to a small country. Fans throw themselves before you in fits of excitement and passion. Then your Instagram is hacked, by your very own fiancé, who accuses you of multiple off field indiscretions of a romantic nature. Spanning 10 years. All of which occurs on Valentine’s Day. To set some additional context, Walker and his fiancé, Racine Lewin, have been together off and on for 10 years. In fact, Lewin is four months pregnant with Walker’s child. Yet despite this, a lengthy rant appeared on Instagram accusing Walker of “canoodling around Nashville like a whore telling everyone that single even though we planned this child and have been asking her to marry me for the past 5 years.” So if a sports idol making an outrageous salary and with a child on the way to his partner of 10 years can’t hold it together, what chance do we have?!
Ultimately, the answer to that question is, “a pretty good chance.” These sporting stories are not anomalies, they are not out of character.
The reality is that sportsmen and women are, like everyone else, just human. The only difference is their mistakes are magnified in the media, blown up for a hungry audience to devour. We judge them, often for failing to act as role models. For failing to adhere to the standards expected of men and women on million dollar deals. So yes, the sporting world can be glamorous and fill us with envy. But it is not without its flaws. It can be embarrassing, hurtful and downright destructive for those who operate within it.
At its core though, it’s just people kicking goals, both literally and metaphorically, like all of us here are trying to do with our lives…and when you get hold of that understanding, well it’s not so bad being an average Joe after all.