ATHLETES VS. MOVIE STARS

David Skinner has a very inciteful insightful piece examining the differences between athletes and other performers as political activists, noting that while most of the prominent musicians and actors who took a position on the war opposed it, most athletes supported it.

As competitors who directly face opponents, athletes may have less trouble accepting the probability of enmity between nations. They become famous over the strenuous opposition of other people. Their professional lives are in fact defined by antagonism and opposition. They have to individually dominate other players, and help their teams dominate other teams.

By contrast, when show-business types triumph, victory comes on a wave of public admiration that can make it seem like they were just elected the public’s favorite human being. If competition is the watchword of sports, adoration and acclaim are the watchwords of show business. This kind of career makes for a weak political education as one grapples to understand why a president would take actions certain to make him unpopular in important parts of Europe and elsewhere.


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Also, since their skills have such strictly quantifiable values, athletes may labor under fewer illusions about their unique ability to see what others don’t notice. Thus they are less likely to feel called upon to enlighten others on the dark promise of American power.

Throughout the recent debate, show-business types and music professionals seemed far more prone to imagining they knew, even after hardly any study of the questions involved, what twisted horrors were in store with the unleashing of American military power. This element of personal vision goes a long way in explaining the ideological divide.

Why should entertainers as opposed to athletes find themselves believing in the power of their own personal vision? Well, what other than some very special mojo belonging only to the person with the box office hit or multi-platinum record can possibly explain their incredibly good fortune?

There are many talented actors and musicians who never make a living at it, let alone become stars, whereas if you can score twenty points a game against professional basketball players, you’re going to enjoy steady employment. There is no one futzing around the local Par 3 course who can play golf like Tiger Woods, whereas if you look hard, you’ll find singers as good as Sheryl Crow or actors as good as Tim Robbins who can barely make ends meet.

No doubt. And, there is this: “There is no Bob Dylan of the NFL.”

(Hat tip: RealClear Politics)

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.