Sometimes the entertaining spectacle of sports clashes with the harshness of reality. The trial of Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius fits that bill. Winning the hearts of millions, the South African dubbed “Blade Runner” gained global fame at the London 2012 Olympics as he became the first double amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes. Sixth months ago we saw him brimming with promise while waving his nation’s flag at the closing ceremony. Now he is charged with the premeditated murder of his girlfriend, who was fatally shot at his home in South Africa on Feb. 14.
The peculiar story of Pistorius brings up the question: what are we to make of globally recognized athletes that commit crimes? Michael Vick, OJ Simpson, Lance Armstrong, now Oscar Pistorius. All of whom excelled in their sport, but failed in their personal lives. We need to compartmentalize these athletes and distance ourselves from the person we see on the field and the man behind the lights. No one can minimize the achievements and hardships overcome by Pistorius. He became the first disabled athlete to compete in the Olympic games, which can’t be overstated enough. His prosthetic legs catapulted an entire community into believing that anything is possible and up until two weeks ago, he was the most inspirational athlete ever.
In his personal life, however, he struggled meeting the expectations of his perfectly woven image. Reports of reckless boat driving and anger issues surfaced, all culminating before the eventual murder of his girlfriend. So we, as a sports community, must separate Pistorius into an individual that succeeded against all odds but also a man that possibly intentionally killed his companion.
This is not to say that we cannot be disappointed. This is a tragic story that shakes the foundation of everything we think to be right. The millions of people, disabled or not, that believed in him now question that inspiration. But the problem lies in the fact that the public naturally puts these athletes on an insurmountable pedestal but now more than ever, we need to realize that they are people as well. Not by any stretch of the imagination am I defending their actions; however, an internal divorce of the two entities is mandatory. So while we continue to watch this intricate case, remember the difference between the blade runner and the blade gunner.