The Ottumwa Courier


February 19, 2013

Tattered images fall from grace

A fall from grace Part III: The final Chapter


OTTUMWA — Rehabilitations of images rare

For every successful rehabilitation like Kobe Bryant or George Foreman, you’ve got 10 who don’t recover. The sad list goes on from track stars Marion Jones and Ben Johnson getting caught with PEDs; to Suzy Favor Hamilton being discovered as a $600 an hour Vegas call girl; to Michael Vick for dog fighting; to Tanya Harding’s linked attack on Nancy Kerrigan;  to Michael Richards, who played Seinfeld’s lovable Kramer, going off on a racist rant at a comedy show. Fuzzy Zoeller’s off-color remarks about Tiger Woods defined his career’s limits, as did Don Imus’ off-the-cuff remarks about the Rutger’s women’s basketball team. Just recently, the “blade runner,” double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius, a national hero in South Africa who captured so many hearts at the London Olympics, has been charged with murdering his girlfriend.

Leave Sweetness and Sugar alone

A posthumous, tell-all book about Walter Payton came out, digging up all kind of negatives on the guy known as “Sweetness” — not just for his moves, but because he was such a sweet guy. Heck, we had a dog named Sweetness. Friends and relatives said people close to Payton were never interviewed and blasted the author. Stories have come out about Sugar Ray Leonard and his drug use and problems. There are plenty of fallen stars in boxing to target like Mike Tyson without bringing Sugar Ray down. I was talking to the sports guys at work, and we were just saying, you know, at some point, we just don’t want to know anything else about our heroes. You want to just put your hands over your ears and say, “I don’t want to hear any more!” Let us have some inspiration in our lives without all of the negative follow-ups. Can we leave the theater happy, just once?

Put yourself in their shoes

These celebrities probably have more faults than normal folks because once they’ve reached the top, they’re not grounded by the simple realities of life — putting food on the table, savoring family and friends, just surviving. These celebrities have so much power, money, temptation of attractive people throwing themselves at them and live in a bubble where their adoring fans and everyone surrounding them are telling them how wonderful they are.

How would we handle it?

It’s hard to imagine how the rest of us would handle that fame. Hopefully with the grace of Iowa natives Kurt Warner and Zack Johnson. Those two are empowering examples of faith and higher purpose. Don’t lose faith in our stars — there’s plenty to look up to: Hank Aaron, Dan Gable, Roger Staubach, Arnold Palmer and Stan “The Man” Musial in sports, just to name a few. Devoted to family, out of a fabric of a higher purpose, they’re people to stabilize what we look up to as examples. My column isn’t to depress, but to review.

In the meantime, Oprah’s got a new career in rehabilitation.

To co-worker Tracy Goldizen who helped me brainstorm: no Tracy, I couldn’t include Twilight’s Kristen  Stewart, I just couldn’t.

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