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Spotlight Too Bright For Some

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I watched a movie one time, and while the name of the movie didn’t stick with me, a certain message did: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Athletes take advantage of their platform in many positive ways, whether their agent tells them to or not, but one of the problems that has come to center-stage is the issue of athletes being consumed by the fame and limelight.

Aaron Hernandez is a recent example of this issue; the former Patriots’ star tight end hung himself in his cell in a high-security prison in Massachusetts, when he really just needed help. The attention he got went to his head, and he needed help managing his sudden success. Even when he was a star player at the University of Florida, he faced accusations of bar fights and use of marijuana. He was questioned on the subject and thought of as a possible person of interest in a shooting near Florida’s campus in 2007. That was all just in college. Those were red flags, but apparently they weren’t alarming enough for the Patriots not to take him in the NFL Draft in 2010.

Hernandez excelled in his first two seasons, earning himself a giant $41 million contract just before his 2012 season. Then, not a year after he signed, the body of Odin Lloyd was found near his home, and he was immediately made a suspect. It was later found that he had been with Lloyd earlier that night, and Hernandez had shot and killed him. Aaron Hernandez is one of many athletes who couldn’t handle the bigger stage of the NFL.

The former Patriots tight end is far from the only professional athlete that has gone through this sort of crisis, but most other cases are much less serious and devastating. One that is extremely comparable, but not recent, is O.J. Simpson. Everyone knows what happened so I won’t sit here and tell you. All-Star basketball player Gilbert Arenas pretended to shoot teammates with guns he brought into the locker room and in 2010. First overall draft pick Ryan Leaf was a bust in the NFL, and since has been charged with numerous crimes including burglary, theft, and drug charges. Lamar Odom had many other interests other than basketball throughout his career, as he was married to Khloe Kardashian, but sports are what gave him his stage. He has allowed it to consume him; his alcohol and drug addiction nearly killed him.

All of these situations scream one thing, “THEY WEREN’T READY!” That’s what it says to me. It says to me that athletes are put on way too much of a pedestal. They play sports. Their jobs are not nearly important enough to have so much pressure placed on them. Many factors go into this: athletes are overpaid, athletes are over-idolized and we expect too much of athletes for what they are. This is what leads to problems they have when their priorities haven’t been placed on anything but their performance on the field or court in such a long time. They lose their common sense and they have a skewed view on the world. That’s just what happens.

Professional sports are one area we can point to as a society and say, “we’re not doing it right.” There are many athletes that are near-perfect role models, but I wish we would value people like doctors and scientists and Nobel Prize award winners and teachers as much as we value the opinions and actions of these athletes. We need to. Or else the same types of situations as happened with O.J. Simpson and now Aaron Hernandez will continue to repeat in history. And we won’t even question, ‘Why do I want to follow in their footsteps?”

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Spotlight Too Bright For Some