Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Not that Famous

I think that we all have some appreciation for the stereotype that star athletes are usually not very cool in person. Whether they don't think or talk the way that we expected them too, or even don't look so big up close, many a fan's experience with meeting stars is underwhelming.

Yesterday, I felt like I had a somewhat similar experience, although I want to explore it differently. Last night, one of the houses on Patterson Court sponsored a program for questions and perspective with some professional athletes. Although several football players were expected, only two showed up. Former lineman T.J. Washington and Panther CB Ken Lucas. I was down at the house with one of my friends who is a huge Ken Lucas fan.

People started asking questions that ranged from perspective on groupies to what happened with the field goal against Dallas. As people began asking more and more things about former players, new players, draft analysis, I realized that Ken wasn't trying to be protective in his answers. He gave his totally honest assessments on Keyshawn Johnson and the Falcon offensive attack as he best knew how. I was mostly amazed that every football fan in the room already knew everything he said.

OK, before I get pegged for supposedly labeling Ken Lucas as stupid or something, let me explain. I really believe that the sports' fan culture of the present day is at a level of knowledge and immersion that has never happened before. If you read ESPN.com a little bit, you can find out everything you need to know about every thing. Lucas admitted that he didn't find out that his former teammate Ricky Manning Jr. had been arrested until he was browsing the internet a long while later.

We assume that all of these athletes have all these secrets and tricks of the trade that they hide behind their helmet and witticisms. But there was no place more relaxed for an athlete than sitting in front of 20 college kids, most of them football players, talking about girls. Lucas revealed his side of the story and his perspective on most things. Unfortunately, I felt like the media beat him to it and told me that a while ago.

Sometimes I think it's scary that meeting your hero in the parking lot after the game doesn't mean that much anymore. Maybe I've just grown up. But maybe we know too much now. Maybe we are closer to the game than the people who play it. I do know that the media is all-powerful now. It possesses power over us in telling us what to believe and when to believe it. We are told what's important and we buy into it. Mel Kiper tells me more about the draft than Ken Lucas ever cared to know. Tom Jackson will break down the west coast defense like Lucas' defensive coordinator. But somehow, we the fan want to be out there. We want to know everything about the game and how to play it, no matter how out of shape we are. It doesn't matter whose fault this is, but it's certainly not going away anytime soon. And until then, I will nod my head at Ken Lucas and think "yeah, that's nice. Tell me something I don't know."

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