The Controversy with Controversy

by: Myles Dichter

There is a big controversy, if you will, with controversy. On one hand, people are afraid to say something that might infuriate others, or possibly get them fired. On the other hand, isn’t it controversy that gets you ratings, and viewers? There is such a fine line between creating controversy and being boring, that people almost always sway to the side of least risk, that of the unexciting expected. You see an athlete being interviewed, and its always the same thing, again and again.

Interviewer: “How come you lost this game?”

Losing player: “We simply got outworked and outhustled. The other team brought their A game, and we weren’t prepared. In the end they scored more (points/goals/runs) than us”.

Interviewer B: “Great game tonight, how did you guys pull out such a meaningful win?”

Winning player: “You know what, our (goalie/quarterback/pitcher/star player) really had an outstanding game and it was thanks to him that we won. <Insert 1-3 gritty players> did all the little things right, and it worked out for us.

Why does it have to be like that? Why can’t the losing player just come out and say that player x really blew it for us tonight, we might have won without him. We, the viewers, know what he’s thinking, so is it really such a big deal to say it? Don’t these athletes know that we watched the same game that they did? I believe that there is one answer to all these questions: pressure. From both the organization and the media. From an organizational standpoint, players must appease their boss, or else they will be kicked out of the door without so much as a goodbye. In order to appease “the powers that be”, they have to take responsibility for a loss. No matter what. Even if your goalie allowed three weak goals in a 4-3 loss, or if you scored 25 points and had 12 rebounds in a losing effort. Players play in fear of their release, and just as an employee who hates his boss will act nice to him while he’s around, a players act nice to the media, since their boss is all around. This brings me to the second pressure, media. Media plays a distinctive role in our society. They can choose to play up an issue to the point where we can’t stand it anymore, or just not mention an equally important issue at all. A good example of this is Rogers Sportsnet’s concussion special, in which they plan on talking about how concussions and Matt Cooke have no place in this game. Why is there no talk of visors and Manny Malhotra’s ugly injury? Visors should be mandatory just as much as blindside hits should carry long suspensions. Yet there is only talk of one.  The media will chew out an athlete who seems even the slightest of ego-maniacs. In this case, isn’t it the media who are really only concerned about themselves? They will go to any length to suit themselves, even if it means embarassing an athlete, or even ruining a career or two along the way. This places intense pressure and scrutiny on an athlete, day in and day out. Now I’m not saying that athletes are all necessarily good speakers, or that they spend a lot of time thinking about what they are going to say at the post-game conference. These guys are athletes, who spend their time practicing their sport. However, a competitive athlete is going to have an opinion on the game, even if he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, which most athletes are not. Many of them are smart though, and you never see anyone ever articulate their real opinion.


Its doesn’t work this way just for athletes. For anyone in the spotlight, there is a weight placed on them to say what the general public wants to hear. One figure who has been in the spotlight recently is none other than Charlie Sheen. He, for lack of a better expression, went off his rocker, and has agreed to interview with just about anyone and everyone. Sheen is embracing the spotlight, sparking controversy and speaking his mind. I respect that. You should always be able to say what’s on your mind, even if its completely crazy. This is the crux of the Sheen “controversy”. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s done nothing to harm anyone, except maybe himself.  All he’s done is say a few outlandish things, and everyone, not just the media, has jumped all over him. If anything, we should be cheering for Charlie Sheen. He got past his addictions, and is welcoming a new, sober life. You may not agree with some decisions he’s made. But we have no right to intrude on his personal privacy. You have a problem with his so-called “goddesses”? Tough. I bet every guy wishes he had the luxuries that Sheen has. He tried married life, and it didn’t work for him, so he moved on to a different lifestyle. Good for him. He’s even turned his lunacy into money, with this tour he’s planned. I have no idea what he’s going to do on tour, but it sold out everywhere with lightning speed. Apparently, Sheen has solid business instincts too.


It’s almost like a lifetime of high school, feeling like you’re being judged on every tiny thing you do. If you screw up once, you move down the pecking order. You have to  have eyes in the back of your head wherever you go, to make sure you don’t make one blunder that the entire school/north america will hear about.


As I’m writing this, I’m watching American Idol, and Steven Tyler makes a good point: “Sometimes you have to be a little bit crazy to make a difference in this world.” In this world, to be controversial you have to be crazy. After hearing a competitor sing, Tyler replied something along the lines of “E to the Z Tiggleedoo, that was wonderful”. Does that “phrase” make any more sense than Sheen calling himself a rock star from Mars? Absolutely not. Will Sheen receive scrutiny for his comments, while Tyler is receiving praise for having a hand in reviving American Idol? Absolutely. No further questions.


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