The Overabundance of Superman in American Sports

“Superheroes fill a gap in the pop culture psyche, similar to the role of Greek mythology. There isn’t really anything else that does the job in modern terms. For me, Batman is the one that can most clearly be taken seriously. He’s not from another planet, or filled with radioactive gunk. I mean, Superman is essentially a god, but Batman is more like Hercules: he’s a human being, very flawed, and bridges the divide.”Christopher Nolan

Everyone needs a hero, some would even say a superhero. Despite their fictional nature, as a culture we worship these characters. We try to emulate their ideals and what they represent, we dress up in their outfits at Halloween, and we make movies about them. All of those things are fine in my book because they represent good things – admiration, imitation, etc.

What has become a problem that is quickly getting out of control is the modern day athlete’s mental image of themselves and what they represent and to whom.

We glorify our modern day athletes as if they, too, are superheros. For the greatest collection of egomaniacs and self-promoters we, the fans, are responsible for the influx in inflated egos and unrealistic self-images the athletes of today have. As if winning the genetic lottery wasn’t enough …

What I would give to be a 6’4″, 230lb., strong-armed, 4.3 40, multimillionaire quarterback, let me tell you. Unfortunately, I’m a 30-something, 5’10” 190(ish)lb., athletically deteriorating father of two. It’s quite the contrast, isn’t it?

It’s what chaps my ass whenever I watch sports these days. While I’m busy hanging on to my glory days when I would hit a home run in baseball and the newspaper would write about how “Ryan Jack cranked one out in the 7th to give his team the lead,” the spoiled rotten “professional” athletes are making millions for playing the same games we did as kids and setting poor examples for young fans worldwide. The “I’m not a role model” thing has been talked about for years, but we all know you don’t volunteer for that job, you’re bestowed the honor of being looked up to by being in the public eye and being at the top of your sport. It’s not something you can refute or run away from.

That’s why when I see some of today’s most popular  athletes and their obnoxious and often ridiculous celebrations whenever they do something even remotely good or noteworthy, I just want to punch them in the face. The “look at me” attitude is very, very tired, but it seems with each passing season it becomes more prevalent. I like to call it the “Superman Complex.”

What is the “Superman Complex”? It’s a complex that is prevalent most in each sports’ very best players and has led to an overabundance of Superman in modern American sports. There are a few examples:

Cam Newton:

As Scott Van Pelt said, “Cam Newton loves him some him.”

Yes, you were a prized recruit coming out of high school. Yes, you stole a laptop and got caught while in college. Yes, your father tried to sell you to the highest bidder. Yes, you won a national championship, player of the year, and Heisman. And yeah, you were the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. Oh, and the rookie of the year and a pro bowl selection. It’s not at all surprising you think so highly of yourself; we’ve all only fawned all over you for the entirety of your life. God forbid we expect you to have some humility. Despite that, you especially haven’t yet earned the right to speak in the third person. “Cam is going to tell you again. It all comes down to execution.”

Well, Cam. If that really is true, someone needs to review with you how to execute the creation of a persona or alter-ego because this bullshit Superman non-sense is waaaaay played out. You’re not the first CURRENT athlete to try their hand at the Man of Steel shtick. No one likes you, just your ability. You’re the last thing we need in sports – an arrogant, self-absorbed guy that thinks he’s Superman. Sorry, bro. You don’t compare, though we all know your kryptonite is defense. Yeah, just defense. Any defense. If it’s D-II quality, chances are you’re going to have a hard time with it.

Your Superman leaves a lot to be desired, especially when you consider those that have come before you. Give up the act and just be the Supertalent not the Superhero.

Dwight Howard:

You thought you fit the mold perfectly. You wear those pretentious black-rimmed glasses (Do they even have lenses in them?), you wore a cape and cute little outfit during the dunk contest, and generally dress up like Superman whenever you can (Just look at your Twitter background). It’s a little … uncomfortable to watch. The worst part of your Superman over that of your football-playing compadre is the lengths you go to making it known you think you’re Superman. I mean, really, these shoes are a disgrace. “The Man Child”? Really? Superman was a man, bud. And he didn’t wear Adidas.

After the display we saw from you in this offseason “The Child” is the only catch-all you need. You showed the maturity of my three-year-old daughter and you dress the part. Maybe it’s more appropriate than we all thought.

And well …

Dwight, Superman doesn’t dump.

Shaquille O’Neal

Ahhhh yeah, Shaq Diesel. Hack-a-Shaq. Shaq Fu. Shaqtus. The Big Shamrock. The Big Aristotle. Superman.

If there ever were a guy I’d be ok with messing around with the Superman act it’s Shaq. For the most part, he waited until later in his career to toy with it, after he’d been established as a great player that was well respected and a clown. We all accepted him as a clown and as a result never really took his Superman tendencies very seriously. I like that. He got tattoos, wore the logo and all that but it never seemed to be perceived as ego-driven. It was just Shaq being Shaq. That’s where the difference lies between these three. Shaq had the public on his side. He wasn’t viewed as this arrogant piece of crap that, as Nolan said, views themselves not only as Superman but as a God.

What all this really boils down to is an individual’s ability to read the coverage, so to speak. They need to be able to see themselves as the public sees them otherwise no amount of effort to seem cool is going to save you from people thinking you’re a dumbs*it.

What each of these guys should have realized early on is what Christopher Nolan points out – Superman isn’t even human or of this planet, really. He’s mythological, unrelatable and unrealistic. Batman is where it is. He has no real superpowers except his will to win, to defeat the bad and elevate the good. His outfit is way cooler, Catwoman is way hotter than Lois Lane, and he’s rich.

Or, you could just forget all of that and follow the guy with the real celebration: Aaron Rodgers. Give me that discount double-check, Rodgers!

You’d all make excellent heels in the WWE because, really, no one likes you. At all. Especially you, Cammy.

And for good measure …

Sigh … Give me a break.

By Ryan Lack
Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanlack