Covering sports is getting to be harder day by day. There's the usual suspects (NBA players arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse and previously untouchably clean superstars turning out to be kinda-sorta scumbags), and then there's a little bit more.
Reggie Bush just became the first Heisman Trophy winner in history to give the trophy back. This will not put an end to the cloud of scandal surrounding the University of Southern California. Nor is that cloud limited to the football program and now-departed (but not fired, he just got a job in the NFL) head football coach, Pete Carroll. The USC basketball program, meanwhile, is dogged by accusations that its star around the same time, O.J. Mayo, who now plays in the NBA, engaged in essentially the exact same behavior.
To anyone who thinks the current trouble is SoCal-centered, look no further than Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and the suspicion that is refusing to leave his side. In the pros, the recent NBA newsscape has been dominated by the fact that LeBron James' Q Score has fallen—drastically.
But is this really new? Are these things that didn't happen before? Are we living in some kind of deadly dark era, where athletes are misbehaving at a never-before-seen level? Is there something wrong with our generation?
Or, is it simply a reflection of the sped-up era in which we live? There have been numerous suggestions that the 24-hour cable news cycle makes it appear as though we live in a more violent world than is actually the case. With athletes hopping onto social networks like Twitter we get an unfiltered look at them and their lives. Few people will dispute that this is an interesting and probably positive wrinkle to the fan-entertainer relationship.
However, there is always a price to pay for closeness. (Remember the phrase about meeting your heroes?) With the media going full-tilt around the clock and the specialization of news organizations, we get revelations that we might not have in the past. Shaq's Twitter account is funny, but it's kind of sad to read about him stealing ideas for TV shows from teammates.
All this is merely to say: It's a shame about Reggie Bush. It's a shame that he essentially had to give back one of the most prestigious awards in the sport. It's a shame that there were suspicions about his time at USC since he was there. But the biggest shame of all is that the defending Super Bowl champs—the New Orleans Saints—are tainted, even if it's ever so slightly, by yet another negative news story about a sports star.
What's the solution? We refuse to live in blissful ignorance, and that's a good thing. But it feels like it keeps getting a little harder to watch sports, root for the same old kind of star, and read the same kind of story when they inevitably slip up.