I recently read an article about Peyton Manning and his possible departure from Indianapolis (don’t worry, this blog is about more than sports) and was rather troubled by it.
Not that it is a poorly written article, it is actually a very well done piece, but it seems to serve as the perfect metaphor for where our culture is right now in reference to the media.
You can read the article here:
As stated in the article, Peyton Manning was once the perfect sports hero for the city of Indianapolis, a city whose “roots are Southern and really, really, really white.” Naturally, a 6 ‘4″ white quarterback with a southern drawl, fit perfectly as the town’s sports hero, particularly after the Ron Artest fiasco. In Manning, sports fans in Indianapolis were given one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and with that a Super Bowl banner.
But right now, there are talks of Peyton being traded, because the NFL is a business. I get that. They have the number one overall pick and therefore the exclusive rights to Andrew Luck. But it’s not that Peyton might get traded from Indianapolis that upsets me, it’s Peyton’s image, his status.
He will mostly likely get traded, not only because of Andrew Luck, but also because he failed to achieve this larger-than-life status that everyone now days longs for. Instead, Peyton achieved a life of personal privacy. He didn’t take any sort of metaphorical ownership of the city that everyone wanted him to take. He isn’t the sexy sport hero turned celebrity who embraces worship from all the “normal” football fans of the world.
Nope. He chose to remain human and coming from a family like the All-American Mannings (see Archie, Eli), this is something that should be celebrated. He chose to make jokes because that’s who he is. And he didn’t betray who he is for who everyone wanted him to be – another more-than-human sports figure.
And now, the fans, the organization, don’t seem all that loyal to him because of it. Most seem to be split and indifferent about his probably departure.
I have been looking a lot into the life of Bob Dylan recently because I’m writing my final paper for senior seminar on him. Dylan was perhaps the most uniquely fascinating celebrity character study to ever come around partly because he always knew the game that the media was playing and resented them for it. But he also loved, more than anything, playing and writing music and as a result, the media destroyed him in a sense. He was constantly dodging its ideologies so that he could hold on to himself as a person, not as a celebrity. But by doing so, he did just that (this is mostly my own speculation).
I have also been reading a lot of Greek tragedy for a different class and it’s revealed to me how awful the Greek gods were. They were extremely beautiful (physically) and extremely horrible, but most of all, extremely human, with a love for manipulation, worship, and success.
And, sadly, I have found that they are exactly like we want our celebrities to be. I seriously can’t find a significant difference between the two.
Even look at Lebron James, one of the most polarizing and larger-than-life figures in sports. He is constantly criticized for things that he does both on and off the court because he’s not what we want him to be. We want him to be the greatest basketball player ever, “the next Michael Jordan”. We want him to be god of all athletes, instead of what he is; just a really, really, freaking good basketball player.
I think that this applies to a lot of aspects of our culture, and I think we’re trained to act this way (but I won’t get into that aspect). Instead of simply enjoying what we have, enjoying watching people like Peyton and Lebron and allowing them to be and live like they want, we constantly criticize them for what they’re not: something more than human.
We seem to put the celebrity status above the athlete, actor, musician, etc. For some reason, they must be a big personality and someone who can rule over their city in order to gain our loyalty. That doesn’t make sense to me.
Peyton Manning doesn’t fit that mold and there is therefore, and always has been, this weird tension for sports fans and their perception of him. Everything from “The Manning Face” to his appearances on SNL and his ambiguous personal life has confused people.
He’s something different and we don’t like that. We want our celebrities to be Greek gods and correct me if I’m wrong, but there is something terribly wrong with that.