A hero complex, insatiable and media-drivenStill Hwang-Woo-suk shell-shocked? I am myself in recovery mode. And the more I think about the whole fiasco the more I have come to consider the responsibility of the media in creating “heroes.” Us amoeba-brain-sized pen pushers play a disproportionately large role.
As a human being everyone has his favorite something. Sports fans all have their own hero. Reporters, before being reporters are sports fans and they too can happen to favor someone. There is no way around that. And that could pose a problem if the reporter forgets his job.
The press puts the right word in front of someone’s name and the person can become the hero of the hour or the culprit of the century. For instance, one may write about a mistake a player made during a game and in the process compare them to another player who did something similar in the past. All of a sudden you may be causing the older player to relive the past. It’s deja vu in a bad way for the player who retired decades ago and is gardening in his yard with his grandchildren. But seldom do most reporters consider these things. As I said, when your brain is the size of an amoeba you have your limitations.
I have been defending Park Chan-ho for years, always in the hope that even during his bad days he would bounce back and regain his old form. In his latest season Park posted a 12-8 record. In the previous injury riddled three seasons with the Texas Rangers, Park had a 14-18 record, and I heralded Park’s comeback based on this record. Should I have mentioned that Park’s 5.74 ERA was on a similar level compared to the three previous years? Did I focus too much on Park’s successful transition from a pure hurler to a guy that figured out how to work the lineup with more control? Maybe, maybe not. But I am sure someone out there has been my judge.
We now have a plethora of Korean athletes who are considered heroes. Stories are written almost daily on the likes of Park Ji-sung who plays for Manchester United and why he has not been able to score in the regular season. Even those who play in the minor leagues get the occasional coverage. And this is for the sole reason that they are playing abroad and competing with the world’s best.
We love phrases like “the world’s first” or “the world’s biggest” or “the world’s ――” as long as it means we beat someone to it. For Korean sports figures, the trendy choice is to be the “first” player to play in whatever league abroad in whichever sport he or she plays. If you are an outsider this phenomenon might be hard to understand.
History has much to do with this behavior that I put into the category of “the continuing struggle for recognition” by a nation as a whole. The well documented rise from the shambles of the Korean War to a wealthy nation with a well-educated population has spurred a constant mental hunger for international recognition for achievement ― any achievement. Whether it’s the national soccer squad, a scientist or an individual player plying their trade abroad, if there is a bandwagon to jump on, most people do. Those who make a living with their pen need to be more cautious ― we can emotionally blindfold ourselves, but we all know now how that ends up.
by Brian Lee