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Dec 12

The Perils Of Popularity

Posted on Saturday, December 12, 2009 in Uncategorized

Barack Obama wins. Tiger Woods cheats. Tim Tebow loses.

These three men are, like us, people.  They have friends and a family. They have hopes and dreams. They win and they lose, they succeed and fail. Why do we care about them. Why do we track their lives? Why did their names appear on virtually every news portal every day this week?

Why, because they are “celebrities.”


As a society one of our biggest problems is that we create “celebrities.” Celebrities, people whose lives and accomplishments we follow. We attribute celebrity status to and esteem them because of their success in their chosen field. Athletes become icons, actors become idols, musicians become magnified.

Sadly we choose far too often — and I make the same mistake — to allow their success in their field to seem to make them experts in another field. To make matters worse as a culture we often idolize the young.

As a veteran youth worker I love teens and young adults, but too often the young and famous are thrust into positions of influence that they are ill-prepared for. They may be famous and successful but too often have far too little wisdom and accountability to be role models at the level their fame esteems them.

Today as the college football’s Heisman Trophy is awarded a new celebrity is christened.

This evening Fox Sports reported that “Mark Ingram completed the trophy case at Alabama, delivering the first Heisman to a school that boasts one of the richest histories in college football.

The tough-running sophomore tailback turned tearful after winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in the closest vote in the award’s 75-year history. Next, he’ll try to lead the most storied program in the South to a national championship.”

Now this twenty-one year old has the pressure of the hope-filled Alabama fans pressed deeply into his flesh — no disrespect to Mark Ingram, but that’s a lot of pressure on a college sophomore.

Under Pressure

Obama, Woods, Tebow and now Ingram. People on pedestals.

President Obama had a legacy of alliances and he built a campaign allying with the majority of our nations voters. That was the “easy part.” Tiger Woods plays golf better than any human being on the planet. He drives a small white ball into a small hole in the ground with such ease that we’re amazed. Tim Tebow quarterbacked his team into a national championship when he was a college sophomore. And, now Mark Ingram will try to do the same.

Those four men are people like you and me. People with responsibilities. They have their admirers and they have their accusers. Tiger’s marriage and social life are under a microscope. President Obama had rallied allies, but his detractors quickly gathered. Even when he wins he loses.

Barack Obama and Tim Tebow get targeted as faux messiahs. Tebow and Mark Ingram, and the rest of the Heisman hopefuls spent the week scrutinized.  Millions of fans will place their hopes for bowl season success on those two young men and others like them.


These four people deserve our respect for their hard work and success in their chosen fields. They are not perfect, nor are they messiahs.


As Ingram celebrates, I cannot imagine Tebow feels too bad. Tebow plays football, but he is a student. This week he won the the William V. Campbell Trophy (formerly called the Draddy) “the most prestigious and desirable “academic” award in college football. The trophy, often referred to as the “Academic Heisman,” recognizes an individual as the absolute best in the country for his academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.”

For Tebow to receive this award says way more about his character than the Heisman would say about his academic prowess.

At the end of the day character is the real measure of a person, not charisma nor fame.

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