|From Fame to Infamy: Sports Figures Fall from Grace
by Wib Leonard,
Illinois State University
To “fall from grace” is an idiomatic expression originating in Greek mythology and refers to the loss of respect, prestige, and status. Today the term has both sacred (e.g., Adam and Eve) and secular dimensions. In both contexts—sacred and secular--both are usually taken as tragic examples of hubris or failed ambition.
In this presentation I will consider some of the secular dimensions as applied to sports and provide theoretical concepts to explain the phenomenon.
The social world of sport has seen its share of malfeasance--Barry Bonds, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, Roger Clemens, Jim Tressell, Ryan Braun. The litany of misdeeds seems interminable.
To understand these “falls” I will employ a number of non-mutually exclusive concepts that are entwined in a complex and mutually reinforcing web: hero worship, cult of celebrity, entitlement, media, gloried and selves, cognitive dissonance, Merton’s anomie theory, groupthink, pluralistic ignorance, blaming the victim, organizational deviance.