Tuesday, August 18, 2009

James Vick Manny Beckham and Big Ben take a look in the mirror

Dave Dameshek, an ESPN.com podcaster gave kudos to Andre Agassi today ( http://sports.espn.go.com/stations/player?context=podcast&id=4352192) on his podcast for his infamous mantra “ Image is everything” which Agassi stated in a Canon commercial over fifteen- years ago. ; Still, Dameshek argued, Agassi’s words seem fitting today as some top athletes currently find them-selves in a position of trying to restore their image due to off-field episodes that seemingly rattled their once squeaky clean perception. ; On Tuesday, TMZ released the feared truth; Lebron James was in fact dunked on by a Syracuse Guard named Jordan Crawford several weeks ago at the Lebron James Camp in Ohio. James reportedly may have confiscated the tapes, with the help of some Nike representatives until TMZ finally got a hold of them, somehow. ; In a book entitled The Beckham Experiment, author Grant Wahl explained, with the help of Los Angeles Galaxy star Landon Donovan, that it was indeed Beckham’s unwillingness to embrace the savior of American soccer that disallowed the sport from gaining any ground in becoming a main stream sport in America. ; ; ; ; ; Ben Roethlisberger will not only be fighting off defensive lineman next year but also some woman in a civil law suit who is accusing him of rape. ; Michael Vick wants to find a team to play for and be forgiven for killing dogs ( or having them killed) while Manny Ramirez is trying to battle back from a 50-game suspension for doing drugs. ; Because of their unfortunate off the field episodes, all of these for-mentioned athletes have one thing in common; they all have an image to be restored. However, the only way for these athletes to ever be perceived by the fans and the media as the cream of the crop again is to do what Adrian said Rocky should do; win. ; After being accused of rape in 2003, Kobe Bryant lost endorsement deals, respect from some of the fans and the media, and most of all his integrity. A few years later Bryant ranted on sports talk radio shows complaining that he needed better teammates that could help him win. The next season, Bryant was booed by his home fans at his first home game and ridiculed by opposing fans on nearly every road trip. ; ; But slowly but surely Bryant worked himself back into public approval. In 2008 he was the NBA’s MVP, in the 2009 Olympics he helped lead team USA back to the gold, ;and in the same year his Lakers were the world champions. While there are still people who dislike Bryant, let’s concur, most fans and journalists today associate Bryant with words like champion, winner and phenomenal athlete, as opposed to all the other negative things that use to pop into their minds. ; Less than a year after Ray Lewis was acquitted of murder chargers due to a plea bargain he chose, he returned to the NFL, and led his team to the Super Bowl while garnering MVP honors. Although Lewis was not chosen after the Super Bowl to repeat those infamous words “ I am going to Disneyland” by Disney World, Lewis has steadily inched his way back into public acceptance. Since the 2001 Super Bowl Lewis has been featured in commercials, done numerous television spots, put on the cover of Madden 2005, been involved in community services, and been selected to numerous pro bowls and is still highly regarded as one of the best linebackers in the league. While we can’t solely attribute Lewis’ resignation to his 2001 Super Bowl MVP, we can certainly conclude it was the match that ignited the fire. ; While Muhammad Ali was supported by many fans for deciding not to enter an unpopular war, some of the media was not as approving . After three years of not being allowed to fight, Ali returned to the ring to defeat nearly every foe in his way and eventually regained the title by defeating George Foreman. Today, almost nobody calls Ali unpatriotic or points to his unwillingness to go to Vietnam. I think it is safe to say that Ali’s success after being allowed to fight again left no room for ridicule; His success simply overshadowed his questionable decisions. ; Beckham, Vick, James and Big Ben all should try to take similar routes to take back up to the top. Sure, giving charity is nice, having your family by your side is touching, and appearing in commercials is a good gesture, but nothing says more than winning. Just look at Alex Rodriguez whose image is shakier than a Los Angeles earthquake. No matter how may MVP’s he wins, Yankee fans will only forgive A-Rod if he helps them win a ring. ; If Beckham wants to quite the Los Angeles Riot Squad at games, he must lead the Galaxy to a winning season, embrace the LA scene, pay for his team’s dinner, and perhaps even win a championship. If not, than enjoy your flight back to London and thanks for nothing. ; Vick cannot just come back and play-football, he has to enable fans to fall in love with his joy stick speed again. Maybe even take his team to the playoffs all while being a good teammate. ; Ironically, James decided not to shake hands with the Orlando Magic after losing in the Eastern Conference finals. James confiscation of the tapes at his camp shows the same characteristic; poor sportsmanship. No matter what happens, if James continues to fail, media and fans will helplessly point to the two incidents as an indication of James’ failures. Mantras such as “ James cannot win because he does not know how to lose like a man” will certainly be uttered by some. ; Roethlisberger is sord of an enigma because he has already won two Super Bowls. If he gets out of the mess he is currently in does he have to come back and win another Super Bowl to re-envent his image? Not necessarily, since he is already a proven winnner, but I guranatee that if he does come back and continue to be succesful that the incident in Lake Tahoe will be all the more easy to be forgotten, guilty or not guilty. If he returns and never wins again, than talk of “ Ben only won the big one because he was in a proven sysytem” will be all the eaiser to say. ; ; ;If we dare, let us take a tip from Manny Ramirez. After coming back from suspension Ramirez has batted 347, with four home runs and 17 runs batted in. While the rest of the world may have issue, Ramirez is adored in Dodger land, ala take a look at Wednesday night’s grand slam. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Dodgers are in first but put it this way, if Manny was batting 215, with one home run and three RBI’s since his return, and the Dodgers were in last place, would he still obtain standing ovations? ; I understand that winning does not cure all. A murderer is not fully forgiven if he lifts up the championship trophy, nor should he be. My gist, however, is that above all winning can replenish an image more than Gatorade can quench your thirst. ; Don’t agree? Then why aren’t guys like Mike Tyson and Allen Iverson note-ably thought of for their outstanding talents first and foremost? Because their off- the field and even on -the-field misshapes have never been followed up with great success. ; This argument as a whole might also seem simplistic. It is human nature that when somebody does something bad, you tend to forgive them after a while, especially if they do a good dead. But some things cannot go over-looked. Can a wife ever forgive her husband for cheating, no matter how many good deeds he does? But that is the beauty of sports. In almost all cases, winning can make fans and media forgive. Doing steroids is bad until you hit a grand slam in the World Series, right? ; Charles Barkley once suggested and was even ridiculed for stating that athletes should not be looked at as role models. “A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail; should they be role models?" Barkley argued. While Barkley was urging fans to simply evaluate a player based on his on the field performance we as fans can never make that leap. Image, like Agassi said, is everything and the only way to ever restore a damaged one is to come back on the field and win. ;

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