Oscar Pistorius: When Role Models Fall

Success and failure are equally disastrous–Tennessee Williams

ImageThe 2012 London games hosted some amazing achievements: Usain Bolt’s historic back-to-back victories, David Rudisha winning the 800m in World record time of 1:40.91, and the United States women’s baton all-star team’s stellar performance, which shattered the record books by posting a time of 40.82, in the 4x100m race. But the high point of the Olympic Games for many people was the performance by double amputee Oscar Pistorius in the 400m and the 4 × 400m relay races.

The fact that Oscar Pistorius (aka the “Blade Runner”) competed with able-bodied athletes, on the World’s biggest stage, is nothing more than inspirational, if not miraculous. Just qualifying for consideration is a testament to his athleticism and drive; this achievement undoubtedly made him the sentimental crowed favorite at the games.

Unfortunately, what stood out during his races were not his performances, but the fawning coverage he received from the media. A Crow’s View is always suspicious when announcers jump on bandwagons for various teams and individuals; with the “Blade Runner” they were in overdrive.

One NBC correspondent spent an entire segment (leading up to a race) criticizing the Olympians who had concerns about a competitive advantage Mr. Pistorius might have with his blades. The issue they had was based on a concern that the blades’ spring may minimally increase race time for Mr. Pistorius. Right or wrong, I thought they had a valid concern because in the world of sports success is decided by fractions of a second. A few tenths of a second can mean the difference between a gold medal or “missing the podium.”

Those who compete at the Olympic level are truly a breed apart. The men and women of this world are freaks of nature. For instance, they have an ability to push their bodies to limits that would severely damage most people. When athletes get injured; they heal much quicker than the average person. To us mere mortals, it seems incredible how quickly they bounce back from injury.

With respect to the differences between athletes and average people, A Crow’s View easily sees that their dedication to win is extremely high. Understanding this fact allows a person not to get caught up in any emotional hype. As much as A Crow’s View is sympathetic to seeing Mr. Pistorius do well, a fair and equal race is paramount.

The reporting about the “Blade Runner” became so biased that your humble author quickly became sickened by the coverage. An NBC reporter covering Mr. Pistorius was obviously caught up in the hype of his amazing achievements. I marveled at the reporter’s lack of objectivity, even though I confess it would be quite easy to do.

When the race started the NBC correspondent was solidly in the corner of Mr. Pistorius. What A Crow’s View really found obtuse was the reporter’s comment following the race. The “Blade Runner” finished ninth overall, and the announcer screamed out, “he didn’t win, but we’re all winners for watching this!”

Since that race, A Crow’s View often wonders what that correspondent thinks about the issues facing Mr. Pistorius? During the Olympics the reporter was sycophantic over the “Blade Runner,” he was actively promoting Mr. Pistorius as a universal role model. What does he say now? Does he regret his loss of objectivity? Is he distressed by Oscar Pistorius’ fall from grace? I don’t know, but it is a sure bet that reporter will jump on the next bandwagon athlete who comes along.

A Crow’s View wants to remind people that athletes are just ordinary people with extraordinary talent. Their private lives are not perfect. In fact, they pay lots of money to enhance their image.

A role model should not be a famous person. Interesting lives such as Steve Jobs, Wayne Gretsky, or Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick (see Apocryphal Bravery) are not realistic measuring sticks. True, their lives can be a source of inspiration to millions of people. How they faced challenges, overcame obstacles, and became successful in their respective fields is a great narrative, but they also won life’s genetic lottery and benefited from exceptional timing to help them along.

On the flip side, it is upsetting when famous individuals fail miserably, such as Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius. Their flaws overshadow any successes they achieved and wipes away their legacy. This can have devastating consequences to their sport and (more importantly) to the legion of fans they have inspired.

Mathew McConaughey got it right in his Oscar speech. When asked as a child who his hero is he stated, “it’s me in ten years.” A Crow’s View isn’t enthralled with Hollywood, but this statement hit the nail on the head. Don’t measure your success to that of athletes, actors, or entrepreneurs. You can draw motivation from them, but your goals should be based on what you want to achieve in ten years. Then use your own drive to make it happen.







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