[NOTEBOOK]Beautiful duffers get more ravesRiko Higashio is a Japanese professional golfer. She is 27 years old and is known not only for her golfing skills but for her beauty. Riko has fair skin and an elegant figure; she is 160 centimeter (5 feet, 3 inches) tall and weighs 50 kilograms (110 pounds). She is conspicuous on the golf course among the bevy of darker-skinned and heavier players. In addition, she benefits from the halo of her father, Osamu Higashio, a former manager of the Seibu Lions, a Japanese professional baseball team.
Since her debut as a professional golfer in 1999, she has become a darling of the Japanese media, in particular television broadcasters. To exaggerate only a bit, Japanese broadcasts of golf tournaments seem to show her on the screen half the time. In addition to showing her strokes, television cameras catch her drinking water, talking with her caddie, laughing or grimacing. They even zoom in to show her golf club covers and other accessories in her golf bag. Probably because of that attention, she seems to pay unusual attention to the television cameras during the games.
Even to casual viewers, it is obvious that she is careful in everything she does, from her gestures to her expressions.
Although she was once invincible as an amateur player, Riko has shown no sterling results since she turned professional. It might, in fact, have been strange if she had performed well, because she paid so much attention to ancillary things while playing a game that requires a high degree of concentration. As her performance continued to lag, the media began to lose interest in her and lessen the amount of on-screen time they gave her.
The craze for a “beautiful face” has reached the sports arenas and courses, and now handsome or beautiful athletes draw more attention than the truly skilled athletes.
The player who drew the most attention in the recent draft in the Korean women’s professional basketball league for the year 2004 was not the best player, Jung Mi-ran, but the media’s idea of a “sports star,” Shin Hye-in. The winner of the popular vote of soccer fans in the men’s professional soccer all-star match was a handsome player, Lee Kwan-woo, who displayed no special talent.
In the run-up to the recent Mobile LPGA Tournament of Champions, the golfer who received the most attention from Koreans was neither Pak Se-ri, who was trying to win for the third consecutive year, nor Annika Sorenstam, the world’s top-ranked female golfer, but Ahn Shi-hyun, who is popular for her beautiful face. Although inline skating is not a popular sport, the popularity of a cute inline skater, Kwok Chae-yi, is unsurpassed.
Of course, the virtues of athletes cannot and should not be limited to only one ― sporting skill. As the old saying goes, the more beautiful skirt is the better one if the prices are the same.
It may be natural to pay more attention to handsome or beautiful players. But the essence of sports is a contest of strength and skill. It is not really a good idea for the media and fans to treat some players favorably just because they are handsome or beautiful.
A good swimmer should be highlighted in the pool and a good dancer in the ballroom. Singers should be valued most for their singing; actors or actresses, for their acting; athletes, for their playing and employees for their work.
This “beautiful face syndrome” is nothing but an aspect of the image culture of our younger generation. We cannot put show before substance; I hope we will keep in mind the failure of Riko Higashio.
* The writer is the sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Dong-kyun
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