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Burn Your Idols: Thoughts on the Peyton Manning saga

Peyton Manning is having a bad year. He may well have finished off what could well be his final season with a Super Bowl win for the Denver


Peyton Manning is having a bad year. He may well have finished off what could well be his final season with a Super Bowl win for the Denver Broncos, but all of his achievements have been marred by accusations of improper conduct, sexual assault, actively obstructing someone’s career in an apparent attempt to silence them, and utilising performance enhancing drugs. No matter how he comes out of this, Manning is going to walk away from this season a lot unhappier than he was hoping. I’m not here to discuss whether he did it, I’m neither qualified, nor invested enough to make an informed decision. What I’m here to talk about is why he got burned, and why it was so widely reported. Let’s set the boundaries of the conversation: athletes are not humans. Celebrities are not humans. Politicians are not humans. I’m not talking about lizard people, and I’m not talking from my own personal perspective, but I am playing devil’s advocate when it comes to the way the media treats these people. As soon as your face gets in the paper, or your name is on top of an important document, you stop being people, and you start being something else. Athletes are derided publicly for any legal infractions, even though they are statistically less likely to commit a crime than a normal citizen of the US. Any personal indiscretions are paraded through the streets for all to see, in a cringe-inducing public shaming ceremony. In a grossly inflated version of the village gossip about what the Vicars daughter got up to with the farm labourer from number 56, these people are pilloried and judged by all and sundry for any personal development. Your average break up doesn’t come with a 500 word write up and a comments section. As humans, we have both positive and negative traits. We look to those ‘above’ us and we idolise them. We put them up on a pedestal, and we strive to achieve what they have achieved. This can drive us to be better people, and emulate the examples of these infallible gods on the screen. We also have ‘schadenfreude’. For those of you unfamiliar with this most Germanic of terms, it is a word that describes “taking pleasure from the failures or suffering of another”. When those idols fall, we delight in it, like terrible imps, we dance around the ruins of their lives with glee. Not only were these idols flawed, and fallible, but they failed publicly. They must be cast down, and replaced with newer, better idols. Lance Armstrong was an inspiration to millions with his triumphs following cancer, his acheivements now tainted by the scandal of drug use. Peyton Manning was the golden boy of Football, now he’s allegedly a sex offender, and a cheat. Clinton was the smoothest president to hold office, now he’ll only be remembered for a stained dress. These people were normal individuals until they excelled at something, at which point they were transferred into the holy of holies. High up on a pedestal, with new rules on social engagement, and appropriate behaviour. These rules apply not only on future, but also past indiscretions. What’s worse, the longer something remains hidden, the more glorious the outrage and indignation of the baying masses. We are terrible creatures, worshipping flawed icons, and revelling in their failures to meet our unrealistic standards. Bad people do bad things. Good people do bad things. There is no black and white, but as long as there are those that excel, there are those that will dance on the graves of their indiscretions and failures. So join in on the latest public shaming, and let’s watch our idols burn.


Burn Your Idols: Thoughts on the Peyton Manning saga

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