Athletes are very visible on the sports fields. That is a proven fact. When they are involved in the action, making the plays that draws the attention of the fans, scoring the runs, the goals, winning the races that bring glory and drawing the onlookers closer. But like sporting administrators, they are also much less noticeable outside of the domain that the public has access to. While in larger parts of the outside world, in places where football and other sports are part of a bigger industry and like a religion, the lives and events of teams and athletes are documented in much greater detail, whether in print or on the screen to allow the fans to have greater insights into their lives.
In the Caribbean we haven’t really reached that level and are felt to be a bit more conservative. Therefore we are not in a position to know if or how they influence others in wider society. This leads to a further problem. The media typically thrives on scandal and sensationalism so stories about public figures “gone bad” are much more likely to appear in the press. Sporting enthusiasts have been glued to their screens taking in the Chicago Bulls Last Dance series and Matchday - Inside Barcelona on Netflix. Those productions have been excellent, telling stories and showing scenes of the good, the bad and the ugly. And in the midst of this, we have the Chris Gayle/Sarwan saga going on prompted by Gayle’s social media clips. Now there is hardly anyone who could say for sure exactly what went on or how to judge except for close associates of both men or those directly inside the camp of the Tallawahs. Can you imagine how much more interesting this could have been if Tallawahs had a series documenting what their 2019 campaign was like with the “Behind the Scenes” clips. Maybe all the footage would not have been cleared for airing but at least the public at large would have had more at their disposal and perhaps been drawn even closer to the Tallawahs set up. We know that such programmes allows a more intimate access for the fans and it increases the chance of there being a greater sense of belonging or identity .
We’ve seen where professional sports clubs or athlete agents/managers find it very difficult to persuade the media to give prominence to “good deeds” by the individuals; news editors and reporters are at times far more interested in detailing off-field misdemeanours. Then when a small minority of athletes fails to live up to employer and public expectations, the wider sports profession or the team in some aspects is tarnished as disreputable. It is difficult to see, in a practical sense, how athletes can function as role models if little is known about them outside of sport or one showing what it took during their journey in trying to achieve their goals. Think of it, the personalities we view as role models are the ones we have constantly seen evidence of doing good off the field of play because of what we are allowed to see via the media and within the last decade, via social media platforms. Our ideas of them being role models didn’t come about because we’re all close friends with them and get to see what they do on a daily basis. And seeing highlights of someone winning a race or pulling off a diving catch doesn't necessary make them a good role model.
I think that team and and athletes are less noticeable outside of actual sporting events. When athletes actually function as role models beyond sport, the public needs some basis upon which to make assessments of their character. And it takes more than a 5-minute clip on Instagram showing the celebratory scenes in the dressing room after a victory for this to happen. In modern day, the sport is a multi-billion industry enjoying great success and attention. Thanks to media platforms, sports are able to reach virtually anyone at anytime. Successful athletes and performers are celebrated by fans as modern-day heroes. Narrative adds meaning to events, and by using it media are able to deliver a message of the event in an interesting way that will help fans understand things.By applying narrative, media shape athletes to be heroes, not unlike ancient times when stories were spread far and wide of someone’s strength or agility. Telling stories is an essential aspect of human nature and we are the only creatures that tell stories. Remember, a narrative can be understood to organize a sequence of events into a whole so that the significance of each event can be understood through its relation to that whole (Elliott, 2005). And a good narrative, just like the Last Dance should not be thought only as means to entertain, but also as a way to communicate morals, cultural and political perspectives and hopefully a feel good story.
"You know, we love stories and we love narrative; we love to get lost in an author's world." - Jeff Bazos
Written by Shaun Fuentes