Controversies shock the sports world

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By Eric Hennessey, Sports Columnist
To anyone who has watched sports programming recently, shows like ESPN’s “SportsCenter” have better resembled a soap opera than a sporting news program. Much of the coverage has been devoted to all the prevalent stories of lies, deceit, scandal and controversy that are currently rocking the sports world.
Within the past year, there were serious scandals surrounding Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University and the bounty program of the New Orleans Saints. Now, the headlines are being dominated by Lance Armstrong’s admission to doping, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s mysterious girlfriend and baseball players being rejected by the Hall of Fame due to steroid allegations.
With these recent developments, many fans may be reevaluating how they view professional athletes.
Perhaps the most disheartening story is Lance Armstrong’s confession that he was doping throughout his championship cycling career. After years of vehemently denying allegations of cheating, Armstrong finally came clean last week.
This news is tough for many to swallow because of everything Armstrong stood for. The remarkable story of a man who overcame cancer, won seven Tour de France titles and started a Livestrong foundation that inspired countless people is now tainted.
Instead of praising Armstrong for all he has done for cancer patients and the competitive greatness he displayed in cycling, fans percieve Armstrong as a liar and a cheater is now at the forefront of our thinking.
Manti Te’o’s situation is certainly the most bizarre. While all the exact details of the story are not fully known, it seems that Te’o showed either an extreme amount of deceit or an extreme amount of naivety.
Either way, Te’o is now having his character called into serious question. This could have a significant impact on Te’o’s NFL draft stock. The outstanding character that many thought he possessed was a major reason he was projected as a first round pick.
Meanwhile, some of the greatest statistical baseball players of all-time, including Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens, were once again left out of the Hall of Fame this year.
All of these players have been followed by a cloud of suspicion that they took performance-enhancing drugs during their careers. While many fans still remember the big moments and incredible skill these players displayed on the field, they remain controversial and unable to be immortalized among the rest of baseball’s greats.
The fall of these athletes is tragic. These declines may make for good television ratings, but they divert attention away from the positive things we should be enjoying most about sports.
The sad part about these sport scandals is that they steal the spotlight from pure sports stories and that they make us overly suspicious of all athletes from this era.
With the supreme stature and esteem that society regards sports, professional athletes will always be viewed as role models, whether they like it or not. Virtually all of us can recall that athlete that we grew up idolizing, imitating and wanting to be just like.
Youths should certainly be encouraged to dream big and strive to excel like their favorite professional athletes, but they should still realize that these are not perfect people and not everything they do should be emulated.
A real danger occurs when we fall victim to a type of hero worship that does not allow us to see the flaws in these athletes as well as the potential for them to act improperly or inappropriately.