Hype, hype, hooray!
Q: Stephen Strasburg blew away even the loftiest expectations in his major-league debut, breaking a Nats record with 14 strikeouts and drawing comparisons to Koufax and Clemens. Is it possible to kill -- or injure -- the "golden goose" by expecting too much, or is it a vote of confidence? Can one player really change the fortunes of a whole team -- and its fans?
Hype can help or hurt, depending on the confidence and talent of the individual.
The highly anticipated "Strasinator" is not officially a golden goose; he would be better described as a bronzed duckling with big golden-goose-like potential. (Please keep in mind that it's 3 a.m. as I write this.)
We love to make people stars before they prove they have staying power. Then we freak out when they fail to become legends. Maybe this guy will have a statue built in his likeness in Pittsburgh and we will all someday find ourselves driving down Strasburg Boulevard. (I think that's an actual road in south Florida.)
Or maybe one day he'll start throwing 120-mph wild pitches that tip us off to a steroids scandal, which he will deny as the whole world notices that his swollen Barry Bonds-size noggin clearly requires a prescription hat! I always find it interesting to see angry guys with giant heads swearing on sports shows that they are not on "the juice."
In reality, this guy seems very good and there is no indication he is on steroids. And, I'll admit, only five pro pitchers ever debuted as well. But let's at least wait until July before we start proclaiming the Second Coming of Koufax!
It's possible for one person to change the fortune of a team, just like it's possible for one person to change the fortune of a country, though we rarely acknowledge it. If it were not for Benjamin Franklin, the United States would not exist. He used his celebrity to single-handedly talk the French into a revolutionary war that we could have never won without them.
In fact, the only reason General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington (actually, he made his lieutenant do it) is that the colonies were not valuable enough for Britain to fight yet another costly war with France. Franklin did all this strategic persuading while chasing women and partying like it was 1799. He was the "star athlete" of his day and apparently still had a lot of "electricity" at age 70 when he went to Paris to make his big pitch.
In sports, we keep sifting through talent to find that magic player who will get the team, the media and the fans to ride the wave of a great dynasty. But these days, with the pressure we put on young athletes who lack the maturity of the previous generation, it's no wonder they struggle.
Most 21-year-old males are still living at home, playing video games in their underwear while simultaneously talking on a cell phone and connecting via Facebook. I personally think it's impressive to be that busy without even having an agenda.
So it makes sense that these fledgling phenoms burn out so fast and don't live up to their overhyped ... hype. I think that this next generation of athletes needs to focus on winning more than breaking records, getting the big bucks and being prepared for the long haul of stardom. Then, hopefully, their heads will only get swollen the old-fashioned way.
Posted by: Rabbitsmoker | June 16, 2010 6:47 PM
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