How Technology Is Pushing Celebrities Into An Era of TransitionShareThis
Here’s a reminder and my column links, then I’m gonna launch into a theory I have. Should be fun today:
If you see or hear any extreme quotes (great/awful/exciting/dull), feel free to fire them over in the comment section or to my email or via carrier pigeon or whatever. I’ll try to keep our Best and Worst Quote-Giver Standings in the right sidebar relatively well updated. BizNasty is starting the slow, inevitable pull-away (thanks to last nights quote about Chris Thorburn: “He can smoke a cigar in the shower his nose is so big.” Now THAT’S good stuff.)
Tuesday’s Puck Daddy: The vulgar world between whistles
Wednesday’s Hockey Primetime: Making the step from college to pro
Today’s theory is an extension of Bruce Arthur’s lastest column on Brett Favre: Great American Entertainer.
Basically, Arthur’s column is a walk-through on the ‘ol gunslinger (or as columnist Jason Whitlock has started calling him, “the ‘ol dongslinger), and how he’s gone from being everything a hero quarterback should be, to some low-level narcissist who constantly provides a high-level of entertainment.
In the process, he went from being the epitome of what we were told quarterbacks were supposed to be — square-jawed, durable, charming, a little reckless, heroic at times, a Marlboro man with a golden arm — to a selfish, drama-loving diva.
In the piece, Arthur mentions how this has become the age of implosion for famous sports figures. He points to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tiger Woods, maybe Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, and now it looks like you can add Brett Favre to that list. And just for kicks, let’s all read this awesome parenthetical paragraph he tacked on before we continue:
(By the way, between Favre’s alleged dong shots and Tiger Woods’ marriage-dissolving text messages, Derek Jeter should offer a seminar. No, really. He should rent a nice hall, and print up flyers or send out a promotional email or something, and explain to fellow sports stars how you can live in a high-profile city, have sex with almost anybody in the world, never once be caught up in scandal or public disapproval of any kind, and stay a hero. He could charge $1-million a minute.)
LIterally, he could charge one million a minute. Tiger would attend for hours.
After that preamble, here’s my theory:
This is a transition period for professional athletes and other stars in general, because of technology. As a group, they will be in more public scandals in a five-to-eight-year span (of which we’re in now) than they ever were before, and ever will be after.
When our stars of today grew up, their heroes could do nearly anything within the law (and some things outside of it) and get away with it. There were no cellphones, let alone any that also functioned as picture-and-video cameras. There was no twitter, no facebook, no voicemails to convert to mp3 files, no sex-tape making and sharing devices, no texting, no recording tools, just…. word-of-mouth and ink, really.
If someone saw or heard a celebrity do something shady they could be talked to, or paid off, or just generally written off as a nut. What’s that rumour you heard? Ridiculous. Then said star would hit a homerun or throw a touchdown and it would all go away. Hell, it almost all goes away today if the fallen star plays well on the field after we know they did something horrible (Vick!), let alone when all the evidence they had was a few people playing ”the telephone game.”
Since those rumours stayed unproved yammerings, there was no reason to believe anything but the best about those highest on our pedestals. Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, Joe Montana and Joe Namath, Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky, you name it – rumours may exist about many, but 90% of fans still believe in the purity of their idols. And they should – innocent until proven guilty, and it’s healthy to believe in your fellow man. Maybe a touch naive, but overall a positive thing I’d say.
Our stars of today seemed to learn from those stars of yesterday - nobody ever really got in trouble, regardless of what the whispers on the street may have been. Caution must not have seemed important when fame reared its pretty little head.
Now it’s a whole new ball game.
Any Olympian of years past was free to rip a bong hit three years from their next Olympic event and maintain a positive public image. Thanks to everyone having cameras in their jeans these days, Michael Phelps is the butt of hippie pot-smoker jokes that make it seem like he’s both Cheech and Chong. For him, I doubt that’ll change anytime soon. It’s just to funny to pass up.
Soon, these stars won’t be so caught off guard by this new era of media and technology. They must be seeing that things are different now.
And so, they’ll learn.
The next generation of heroes will have new handlers and a new education. They will see how the shady dealings of today’s celebrities were not aided by technology, but rather undermined by it. It will leads to a fork in the road, and stars will go one of two ways:
(A) develop more clandestine methods, with a more airtight group than Tiger Woods (if possible), and learn from the likes of Derek Jeter or
(B) shape up. You have to be Batman to be a successfully scuzzy celebrity today, and some might find it’s just not worth the effort.
It’s not Babe Ruth days anymore.
So here we are, in our chaotic little transition period. A time where the “I can do anything I want” celebrities of today are learning that they can’t. The ride has been fun to follow (while a little unsettling), and we’re not at the fork in the road yet.
But in the coming years, most stars will have to make the choice: Do they want to be Batman, or respectable?
I’ll let Arthur close us out:
(You know, not enough people are talking about how impressive it is that the oldest non-kicker in the NFL was able to master sending pictures of his junk, which is something the teenagers are reportedly doing these days. He really is like a kid out there!)