A few friends and I were talking recently about the way our respect for great athletic performances can shade our opinion of the athlete in general. While we all agreed that truly becoming great takes a lot of personality traits that are typically categorized as “good,” this really is only one dimension of the human condition. In recent times, I have seen the words “hero” thrown at people who have demonstrated bluntly atrocious character traits, while seeing the most heartwarming acts of kindness somehow belittled for less-than-world-record worthy platform performances. This is demonstrated in most sports: we have seen COUNTLESS news reports of athletes accused of rape, murder, theft, adultery, tax evasion, etc. Some get the book thrown at them, and some are given relatively light sentences.
I realize there are countless factors that play into this. I cannot even pretend that I have a solution for the athlete bias. However, this topic did spur conversation that I thought was useful:
“Who are you outside of the gym?”
This is not a question of reputation, this is a question of self reflection. What do you spend time on outside of your dealings with sport? What would happen to your influence on those around you if you never lifted again? Do you have interests that introduce you to different perspectives and ideas? Are you able to process opinions that differ from yours in a way that is constructive?
A lot of my own answers to these where quite humbling, and highlighted that I need to ensure that my value as a human isnt wrapped up in my athleticism. Its a work in progress, but I am grateful for the recent conversations that have encouraged me to grow.