“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.” ~Michael Leunig

Okay, so it’s not easy being famous and being in a relationship. We see this everywhere in the tabloids. Celebrity marriages failing for small reasons- egos, paychecks, other people, jobs…. And for athletes who play sports professionally, playing a sport is their job. It’s a great job since there are a lot of perks; however, in many celebrity athletes’ cases, it’s not always easy to balance those you love with the game you play.

The truth is that it’s not easy being a professional athlete. Despite the million-dollar paychecks, the paycheck only remains as long as you stay in good health, stay in good shape and stay at the top of your game. A few slip-ups and you start getting questioned. You practice for long hours off season and, on season, you travel. A lot. When do you even have time to date, let alone plan a life with someone? And do they really like you for who you are off camera, or for who you are on camera? These are some of the questions faced when choosing such a demanding career. Both relationships and sports take a lot of time if done well, which is why it’s hard to choose both. This is why many of these relationships fail- the stresses are too much, there’s too much at stake, and there’s not enough time spent together.
So how does one cultivate and keep a long-lasting relationship despite the stresses of playing a sport professionally? The advice below can apply not only to athlete relationships, but also to any relationship in which one or both partner may have a job that means they’re not home a lot of the time. So without further ado, here are some qualities essential in a relationship that’s meant to last.
1) One of the foundations of a strong, lasting relationship is that of trust. Particularly for a relationship of this magnitude, trust is essential. If you’re going to be gone a lot, your significant other should be comfortable with that. However, make sure your behavior when you’re on the road is such that he/she can trust you.
2) Good, consistent communication is also a must. Maybe your significant other doesn’t have to know every single place you’re at or every single thing that you’re doing, but they should have enough of an idea that he/she doesn’t think anything funny’s going on behind his/her back. Do whatever you need: call, text, email, chat, Skype… We live in the Information Age- there are plenty of communication channels you can use to keep in touch with your sweetheart.
3) Adaptability is also key. With such fluid schedules, both people must be able to adapt to changes in the other’s schedule. Sometimes inconvenient things happen, but this shouldn’t be a huge stress in a relationship. Things change, but your relationship should not. Be flexible. They’ll make it up somehow.
4) So you’re gone a lot, but the dynamic between you and your significant other should not fall apart because of this. You and your significant other are the ultimate team. Your partner is your haven, the one you come home to after the end of a hard week on the road. Don’t neglect the importance of this. Make time for dates just for the two of you- cook dinner together, go to the movies, see a different sporting event… Remember what it was like in the beginning and don’t lose that original spark. Date nights are essential even if you’re just hanging out on the couch in your sweats.
Finally, the most important for celebrity relationships is:
5) Keep it private. This is ESSENTIAL when one of both of you is in the spotlight. Even though it’s so easy for reporters to follow you around so they can sell tabloids, do not talk about your relationship in public. Any problems you’re having, don’t have in public. There are certain things you don’t even tell your friends, because in the end, it’s just you and your partner in the relationship. No one else should be involved.
My last point is this. If you’re a pro athlete (or even a D1 athlete) and want to keep a relationship going despite the stresses of playing a sport, then I hope these tips will help ground you and remind you why you chose to be in a relationship despite everything. However, if you want to play the field (and no, I’m talking sports), then that’s also honorable. Just be safe out there.
Next week we’ll discuss remembering to love the game you play.
“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.” ~P.J. O’Rourke

A few weeks ago, I started our series on the importance of public image for athletes. A couple weeks ago, we dove into the NFL and its seemingly large turnout of criminals of all kinds. This week, we’ll be looking at how drug use negatively affects athletic performance. Although this seems like common sense, the numbers of athletes who use or who have been caught using steroids is rather large, especially considering the dangerous effects these drugs have on the people using them. While we could probably go on forever about all the various drugs athletes could take, in this post, we’ll focus primarily on alcohol and steroid use.

We’ll start with alcohol use because it’s familiar to most of us, whereas I’m just presuming that the majority of our readers haven’t taken steroids. Also, if you’ll remember, the last post discussed the most common crimes (particularly of NFL players) committed by athletes. According to a report from the San Diego Tribune 129 of 385 arrests made of NFL players between the years 2000 and 2008 were at least partially caused by alcohol use. In college, we are entirely aware of the effect that alcohol has on our social lives. Most college students, whether legal or minor, find ways to socialize with their friends with alcohol.
However, according to a bulletin in the UC San Diego athletic department, alcohol has negative effects on athletic performance. Some of these effects include intense dehydration, which in turn causes cramps or musculoskeletal injuries, fat gain (since alcohol has 7 calories per gram), and loss of testosterone in male athletes, as well as an increase of estradial (a form of estrogen that causes breast cancer) in female athletes. These were just a few of many negative effects of this popular drug. And, even more surprising is that a study done in Sydney, Australia actually shows that even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol after an athletic performance actually slows down the recovery time. I’m sure no one doing these studies are thinking they can control athlete alcohol use, but it’s definitely something to think about.
Next up is the use of anabolic steroids. Of course, steroid-use stories seem to be rampant in the media. Some of the pro athletes who’ve been caught or who have confessed to steroid use include Lance Armstrong,Alex Rodriguez, and Marion Jones. According to a study in Scientific American, it is anabolic steroids that are favored by athletes because of their promotion of muscle and tissue growth. (This is opposed to the prednisone often prescribed by doctors to cure inflammatory conditions).NPR reported a debate in 2008 about whether performance enhancing drugs should be used in sports. While opponents agreed that it gives those on steroids an unfair advantage, proponents of steroid use argued that drugs are given for various reasons in other professions, why not do the same in sports?
Well, I’ll tell you why (at least according to what I’ve read). Some of the negative effects of anabolic steroids include lowered sperm count in men, pain in urination, or a shrinking of the testicles. Women often see a “masculinization”. For example, they may see the growth of facial hair, menstrual cycle changes and shrinking breasts. Unisex reactions include acne, weakened tendons and even liver damage. One has to ask, is it really worth the risk?
And according to another study in Science Daily suggests that those on performance enhancing drugs are more likely to abuse drugs like alcohol, marijuana and cocaine- in other words, drug combinations that should not be mixed.
From a risk management standpoint, all signs point to alcohol in moderation, but no use of steroids. In the end, it’s just not worth it.

“Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it” -Henry Thomas Buckle

One of the first times I spoke with Josh Gordon, director of Competition Not Conflict, we had a long conversation about my desired course of work. We exchanged thoughts on ‘athletes in crisis’ and the issue of crime in the NFL came up. Mr. Gordon discussed the loss of credibility of the NFL and its various players thanks to the high rate of crime amongst players of professional football teams. Although this post does not intend to ignore crimes committed by other athletes, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the NFL is overflowing with it.

“I am surprised at the way people seem to perceive me, and sometimes I read stories and hear things about me and I go “ugh.” I wouldn’t like her either. It’s so unlike what I think I am or what my friends think I am.” -Hillary Clinton

Public image is perhaps the most important thing for a professional athlete to think about promoting. After all, it’s obvious that this individual has the skills needed to get into the game. However, do they have the public savvy to stay there? This is probably the main reason I decided to pursue this very niche field. At the time, the University of Oregon was getting a lot of crap because some of the football team’s big names- Masoli, Blount, and James, were getting accused of starting fights, stealing, smoking, and abusing girlfriends. I myself, was as shocked as anyone else on campus. Here were good students and great athletes getting accused of these outrageous crimes- many of which turned out to be true. If you remember, Masoli actually ended up getting kicked off the team.
Generally, it’s not college athletes we see misbehaving- it’s professional athletes. Last year, Tiger Woods was discovered to have been having affairs with a number of other women. Just earlier this year, Brett Favresent pictures of his man parts to an NFL game host. Steroid use was really popular for a while, something that Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong could attest to. And athletes were also attracted to other kinds of sports… Michael Vick and dog fighting, for example.
And while I’m not supporting a free pass for any of these guys, sometimes I think that these crises could have been handled better.
For example, I remember watching how Woods’ PR team was handling (or not handling) the Tiger Woods episode and thinking that I wish I knew a better way to fix the problem. Sadly, it’s not an easy fix. It’s not like when an athlete is about to go pro, they have to take a class in college called Playing Sports and Dealing With the Real World 101. Although maybe they should…
This is where my desired career path and Competition Not Conflict merge. In my mind, I think that athletes should all get assigned to publicists or PR teams that are specifically trained in conflict resolution and even more so, get trained to handle conflict resolution with athletes specifically. Also, CNC is currently developing some conflict prevention programs for athletes, something that’s also maybe even more useful than conflict resolution or crisis management-type work.
Athletes must be taught, from a young age, that they are not invincible and that the rules of society do apply to them- maybe even more so than the average-Joe. After all, these men and women are role models to children and to society at large. Having a good public persona is essential to gaining and keeping strong advertising contracts (look at how many Woods lost when that whole fiasco went down). But athletes also owe it to themselves to maintain healthy and happy lives outside of their sports. Taking steroids has a huge effect on physical health, domestic issues have a huge effect on an athlete’s performance (again, Woods’ post affair interviews and performances can be examined), and getting involved in crime makes an athlete look like nothing more than an elite thug.
Sadly, there is no easy fix for this issue and we’ll be examining it in bits and pieces on this blog throughout the year. At the beginning of the term, I breakfasted with an old friend of mine on campus. She was asking me about my internship this year and I was explaining to her what exactly I wanted to do. An older couple at the table next to us interrupted me and we all launched into a long conversation about athletes and their accountability as citizens at both the college and professional level. At the end of the conversation, the woman took my hands and said, “I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. Those guys need someone like you.” I can only hope I can live up to what I say I can.
Next week, we’ll start breaking some of this down. Let’s start by talking about crime and athletes. Until then, cheers.
“Girls playing sports is not about winning gold medals. It’s about self-esteem, learning to compete and learning how hard you have to work in order to achieve your goals.” — Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Okay, so the first image that comes to your mind when you think of “athletes” are of the male variety– Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, LeBron James…. But what about female athletes? Maybe they’re not as discussed as the male ones, but they’ve earned their merits- think, Maria Sharipova, Michelle Wie, or Danica Patrick, amongst plenty of others…
When you think about it, female athletes are and seemingly always have been at somewhat of a disadvantage in American sports culture. It seems like since the beginning of time, sporting events have always been about men competing- think of the original Olympic games or the jousting events of Ancient Greece and Medieval Europe, respectively. Perhaps this came from the long-held misconception that women should be strictly responsible for raising the family and being the mistress of the house.
Today, these archaic beliefs and our culture’s obsession with a particular type of women’s sexuality put female athletes at even more of a disadvantage. Their healthy bodies and strong spirits do not necessarily fit into the media’s battering ram of other images of women. Women that we see in advertising and on magazine covers are slim (sometimes to the point of anorexia), small, weak, and gaze at you with that, “Take me to the bedroom now” look. Women in advertising and magazines don’t have the strength of body and spirit that female athletes do, and this makes female athletes unsure about their roll in life.
On the one hand, girls who play sports are taught to be tough, not sweat the small stuff and to believe in oneself. After all, what shot could be made without a huge dose of self confidence? On the other hand, many female athletes don’t have the very slim body that is perpetuated in the media they consume. And while they may strive for that singular body type, developing eating disorders disables female athletes from excelling in their chosen sport.
Thus a conundrum is faced. On the one hand, many women’s magazines have joined a movement of female empowerment and highlight these women for young girls to emulate. On the other hand, female athletics are not taken as seriously in the media.
When was the last time you discussed the WNBA? This lack of respect for female athletes in the sexy spreads that they model for in magazines and online “hottest athlete babe” countdowns.
On a happier note, despite the media’s limited view of feminine beauty that maybe doesn’t accept the stocky female lacrosse player or the tall, lanky female basketball player, these women have and continue to be role models for young girls. They often times overcome a great many obstacles to stand where they stand today and thus continuously inspire. They make young girls who play sports believe that they too can beat the odds. And in the end, having beautiful, intelligent, athletic role models is not a bad thing.

“The freedom of authentic masculinity is an amazing thing to see. It produces a “divine elasticity” in men. Finally they can lead with firmness, then submit with humility. They can challenge with a cutting edge, then encourage with enthusiasm. They can fight aggressively for just causes, then moments later weep over suffering.” –Bill Hybels

It’s not easy being famous, and celebrity status often applies to pro athletes. College athletes also, from time to time, reach this exalted societal role. Although celebrity status for male athletes often brings bigger paychecks, lots of face time on TV and city buses and dozens of adoring female groupies, it also brings greater public responsibility. Particularly in regards to how they conduct their personal lives, the question becomes this: How do athletes deal with maintaining their reputation on the field as well as off the field, especially when it comes to the opposite sex?

This is a challenging, complex question to answer because there’s so much at stake and so many, varying answers. The other day, Dr. Peg Brand, wife of the late Miles Brand, came in to guest lecture to our class. We talked about media portrayals of sexuality and about how they relate to sports and athletes. Athletic sports scandals seem to pop up all over the place. Just last winter, Tiger Woods was caught cheating on his now ex-wife, Brett Favre was accused of sending inappropriate pictures to an NFL game host, and just a few years ago, members of the Duke lacrosse team got accused of raping a stripper who attended one of their parties. These are just a few of the many stories of male athletes abusing their girlfriends, assaulting female fans or getting involved in a myriad of other sex scandals. In fact, these stories seem to be so common, we’re not even surprised when we hear about them.
Although it would be easy to blame big paychecks and huge egos, the perpetrator behind the scenes is most likely the culture that young male athletes grow up in. Surrounded by over-sexualized and false images of what the “ideal” woman is supposed to look like and a victim of media’s limited view of acceptable masculine traits, it is not surprising that, in the heat of the moment, male athletes don’t know how to act.
So let’s look into this modern day culture a little more closely. Advertising and magazines enjoy perpetuatingthe image of the young, attractive, sexual woman. This image [of celebrities posing naked, or nearly naked] tells women how to be attractive and tells boys what an attractive woman should look like. Surrounded by these images, it is no wonder that men expect every woman they meet to be a potential subject for a sexual encounter, regardless of the consequences.
Secondly, the narrow view of masculinity portrayed is that of power, strength, athleticism and physical good looks. On a very stereotypical level, many men are portrayed as bumbling, muscular, sexual buffoons. However, the sensitive male has no place in advertising and magazines. Violence sells; sensitivity (at least when it comes to men) does not.
So how do we go about changing a cultural phenomenon? Dr. Peg Brand, a professor who came to visit a class I’m taking this term, explained that our expectations for male athletes are high. “We expect [football players] to play a very violent game of football and then walk off the field and completely shut that part of them off.” It is a lot to ask of anyone, particularly, men raised in a very violent sexualized culture.
Although there is not a quick fix to these huge issues, some things that we all can do is begin to demand more from our media. By rejecting the images they sell us and demanding more realistic ones, we can begin to sway the media to do what we want, rather than the other way around. As far as men are concerned, we must help them embrace a broader impersonation of masculinity: one that allows them to be strong and powerful, but also enables them to communicate, be respectful and sensitive to those around them.
Next week, we’ll turn the tables around and discuss how the media affects female athletes and offer ideas of how to counter negative stereotyping of women.

“If you make every game a life-and-death thing, you’re going to have problems. You’ll be dead a lot.” ~Dean Smith

The other day, I sat in class discussing the importance of victory in a sports match. The group was composed of a variety of athletes and fans and we all had different answers to one question. At what cost does a victory come? Although answers varied, we all agreed that what starts out as a game when we were children quickly becomes more as we get older. Though still young in college, suddenly sports has become about making money. The game, at times, becomes a life or death matter.

Putting so much stock into, what should just be a game may seem silly to people who are not sports fans; on the contrary, the outcome of the game is incredibly important to the morale of a team’s fans. Psychologists have long been fascinated by figuring out why fans act and feel the way they do at athletic events. But let’s step back in time for a moment.

Humans are tribal creatures and thus, our desire to be connected to a group is embedded into our DNA. Back in the day, tribes rallied around warriors and war games. In fact, games and early sports (like jousting and polo) were often played in order to rally villagers around their nobility or for marriage ties to be decided between two noble families. So you see, sports have always acted as some kind of glue for communities.

These days, fans gather in the thousands to watch a single game and to rally around a particular team. And all kinds of things can happen at these meetings. Inter-fan violence occurs in the forms of brawls and riots and fans collectively lose their voices cheering loudly for their team, amongst other things. As fellow sports followers, I’m sure we can all attest to watching some strange display of fan-dom during a game.

Psychologists have been studying the phenomenon of fan-dom and have discovered that ties to a certain team run deep. To all of you who have ever said, “But it’s just a game” when your friend comes home dejected following a loss, I’m here to tell you that fans actually experience physiological and hormonal changes along with their teams.

A study in Georgia found that male testosterone levels actually rise up to 20% following a win, while testosterone levels plummet by rates of up to 27% following a loss. We’ve also already discussed the “us vs. them” ideology- which explains why fans identify with their team after a win (“We won”) and draw away after a loss (“They lost”).

Charles Hillman, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, even discovered that highly zealous fans’ arousal rates rise. These arousal rates are similar to those attributed to seeing erotic photos or seeing images of animal attacks. Edward Hirt, from Indiana University adds to this finding. He discovered that both male and female fans were more optimistic about their sex appeal after a victory.

However, perhaps the most appealing part about sports fan-dom is the escapism factor. Watching a really good game (especially one in which your team is winning) seems to be akin to getting lost in an exciting movie or compelling book. For a few hours, fans can escape the drudgery of their own lives. They also find a sense of belonging amongst the thousands of fellow fans. In fact, according to a study done by the University of Kansas, ardent sports fans actually have lower levels of depression and alienation than do non-sports fans.

A lot more is surely to be found in this niche field of fan psychology, and after all, this was only a basic primer. However, I know I will be thinking about this research when I go sit amongst my fellow fans when the Ducks play Stanford today. It’s just college and it’s just a game, but maybe it really isn’t that simple.