Howard Bloom is the editor of Sports Business News. His enewsletter and blog have been around for a decade. Howard Bloom has had a career that spans many areas of sport, including having been an agent for several of the top Canadian sprinters, aka when they kicked butt in 1996 in Atlanta. Howard and I catch up occasionally and if we spoke today, I would tell him, that he put the right spin and perspective on the Oscar Pistorius tragedy, citing a human tragedy of biblical proportions.
Sports Business News is a tremendous newsletter and Bloom gets it. The newsletter is organized, with links to great pieces and a commentary. I highly recommend a subscription (www.sportsbusinessnews.com)
Today, Howard Bloom wrote about the Oscar Pistorius debacle. Bloom looks at the investment that not only Pistorius sponsors, but his fans, made into the Blade runner’s rise as folk hero, idol, role model. All of that will go away, if the alleged charges by the South African police are found to be true. In the end, a beautiful young woman, Reeva Steenkamp, has been brutally murdered, and there is no going back from that.
I have met Oscar Pistorius several times over the years. I admired his self deprecation, his modesty, and his athleticism. Pistorius is a talented athlete, who pushed the bounds of human athleticisim. He could have given up, but he did not. Perhaps, as Coach Brooks Johnson wrote recently, that is part of the problem: in the arts, in the sciences and in sports, there is little separating those who have great talents and those who have great torments.
In speaking to many athletes, agents and keen observers of the sports world over the last few hours, the comment that came out over and over, is how over the top someone would have to be to shoot a person four times at close range. Really, no excuses for ending another’s life in such a situation. Domestic abuse, domestic disturbances are still that silent crime that only comes out after a tragedy. How easy was it for journalists to find out about the domestic disturbance issues after the young women was murdered? This happens across our country at a level that most of us hate to admit. It happens around the world, especially to women, at levels that are horrific. It is only when there is, unfortunately, celebrities involved, and handsome and pretty ones for that matter, that we hear about it on the news.
The other comment that came from many was, alas, another sports hero has been destroyed. The typical following words are that the media has built them up, and that the athletes and their crew, group, friends thought that they were untouchable.
I believe that it is much more complicated than that. Media is a 24/7 monster, and one must feed the beast. Some media outlets are better than others. One finds, from my experience, that many who get out the first story tend to loaded with factual mistakes.
From Tiger Woods, to OJ Simpson, to Lance Armstrong, to now, Oscar Pistorius, the media world, and the sports world has given athletes pretty much free reigns. Charles Barkley is one of the few honest athletes in this regard: he told us almost two decades ago that he was not a role model. In that moment of clarity, despite Barkley’s pretty colorful, post competitive life, he is still one of the most popular athletes in the world of sport.
I differ with Barkley in this regard. Perhaps athletes don’t want to be role models, but, the fact is they are. I believe, that with college scholarships, million dollar contracts, and being in the eye of the world, this personality kultur kampf that gives us E entertainment, ESPN 1-46, and Sports Illustrated, athletes need to be held to a higher standard.
Was it easier when Babe Ruth was playing baseball? When Mickey Mantle was playing baseball? Sure, there was less media outlets, and the mostly male sports writers did not write about sports stars indiscretions, well, until they were finishing said athlete’s biography.
Last night, I had dinner with a group of track athletes, who were relaxed, enjoying each others company, cracking jokes, and preparing for one of the most important track meets on the indoor circuit. A couple of us discussed Lance, Tiger, and now, Oscar. They were as disappointed as any fan. In the end, all in sports are hurt by the human tragedy that is Oscar Pistorius.
At this time, Oscar Pistorius is in a South African jail, having given a response of not guilty, and awaiting a bail hearing. He is facing 25 years to life in South African jails, surely not a place any sane person wants to spend the better part of their life. But then, what snaps in one’s head that allows them to put four bullets, one after another, through a bathroom door, into the one they had loved? As many of our readers can’t, neither can I fathom such a situation.
Life is over for Reeva Steenkamp. And, truly, life is over for Oscar Pistorius. He has now become a footnote in the all too familiar story of great sports stars who have not lived up to expectations, or who have broken basic human rules, like not murdering a spouse or significant other.
For me, I can not get the picture of the pretty young woman, Reeva Steenkamp, out of my mind’s eye. She had last tweeted on her account a few hours before her death, wondering what surprise she would have for Valentines’ Day.