Tuesday, September 9, 2014
PERCEPTION IS REALITY? REALLY?
When I worked in television several years ago, I had a news director tell me that "perception
is reality." I thought it was the dumbest thing of I had ever heard of at the time and that
still holds true today.
As an athlete growing up, I believed that reality is reality. Perhaps Bill Parcells said it
best when he famously uttered, "you are what your record says you are." You can look
like a great quarterback, throw like a great quarterback but if your team is 3-13, you are
not a great quarterback.
This brings me to Ray Rice. For years, the perception of Ray Rice was that he was a
'great guy.' and 'so nice.' People saw a 15-second clip of the former NFL running back on
ESPN smiling and saying the right things and came to the conclusion that he was a nice
guy and one of great character. This is what America does. They look at things on the
surface and makes a snap judgment based on what a person says and how he says it in
15-second soundbite on 'SportsCenter.'
Remember Tiger Woods and all those family portraits he sent out to the media? The
perception was that Tiger was a great husband, father, a family man. American bought
into it, didn't they? The perception was that Tiger was the greatest family man on earth.
What was the reality? Yeah, he was a philandering dirt bag. As soon as the photographer
said, "That's a wrap. Tiger was off to Perkins for a Grand Slam breakfast with his
How about Lance Armstrong? America read his book, saw pictures of his battle against
cancer, about bought into the entire "Livestrong" campaign. They gobbled up all those
yellow wristbands and wore them proudly. After all, Armstrong was a "hero" because
he beat cancer and raised millions of dollars for research. That was the perception.
What was the reality? Armstrong is a lying, cheating, scum-of-the-earth man who won
all those Tour de France titles souped up on PED's and then lied about everything. Nice.
We thought USC captain Josh Shaw was a hero and the media was all set to buy
into his story. What was the reality? He lied and wasn't the person we thought he
A-Rod, Michael Vick, Bobby Petrino, Roger Clemens, and even Michael Jordan
didn't exactly turn out to be the people we thought they were, did they?
Add Ray Rice to that list. America becomes infatuated with these athletes without
knowing a thing about them. Oh, they should be admired for their athletic ability
and that's about it. There is only one Derek Jeter and he's about to call it a career.
But they are just athletes with nicks, flaws, and dents like the rest of us. They build
these images that are carefully crafted and are all buttoned-up. They smile and say
the right things for the cameras and while their muscle fiber may be stronger than
ours, their moral fiber often isn't.
That's the reality, not the perception. Sports fans who've been burned often will
get sucked in again. Hero worshipping is a powerful thing.
But no matter what anybody tries to tell you about "perception being reality", don't
ever buy into it. That is for the lazy, ignorant, and thoughtless people who don't
want to expend the energy to find out the truth.
Reality is reality. You are what your record says you are.