Athletes, A-listers subjected to similar publicity

By Allyson Kloster

If you ever find yourself getting annoyed with the outrageous number of commercials Peyton Manning is in, why Tony Romo is still dating Jessica Simpson or how Michael Phelps is managing to overextend his social schedule farther than he extended his fingertips for Olympic gold (the VMA’s, seriously?), stop.

It’s not a novel concept for athletes to be used as spokespeople (think Wheaties), nor is dating Hollywood celebrities a new trend (think Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe). And the whole let-me-hit-up-every-place-where-the-media-will be song-and-dance isn’t novel either (unless it’s literally a dance, a la Dancing with the Stars).

But in the era of the Internet, the extremes at which athletes’ lives are being publicized seem starker than in years past. Are athletes like Manning and Phelps seeking the spotlight more than previous generations of athletes?

I doubt it. If the athletes of previous generations had as many avenues to self-promote and publicize as there are today, they, their agents and their employers would do the exact same things. Not necessarily out of choice, but out of necessity.

Think about it. New multi-media and technological devices – the Internet, DVR and blogs, to name a few – are throwing advertisers into tizzies.

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Advertisers must figure out how to mold their product to a new system in order to avoid becoming yesterday’s news.

Professional sports are not exempt from this system. The athletes are essentially the products in and of themselves, so they have no choice but to join in on the fun. The “fun” used to be typical PR work (i.e., partaking in forced volunteer work), but is changing as consumers get their information differently. Basically, the Internet creates a higher, more immediate demand of information. Since it’s in the best interest of the businesses to give the people what they want, there are many more types of public appearances by athletes as a result, so the people get more than their fair dosage of (insert favorite athlete here). Simple supply and demand.

Still, it’s sometimes hard to not accuse an athlete of being a fame seeker. Look at female golfer Natalie Gulbis. A few years ago, her fame grew because she had a reality show and swimsuit calendar. But unlike Anna Kournikova on the tennis courts, Gulbis was actually good at her sport. Now she’s a contestant on NBC’s The Apprentice and is being criticized for having her reality show aspirations “trump” her athletic ones, when, in reality, she is having back problems. Instead of realizing that her stint on The Apprentice might be what’s keeping both her career and the LPGA’s career alive, people find it easier to criticize her.

Perhaps the best option for Gulbis to avoid permanent damage was to lay low and let her body heal.

It just so happens that Gulbis’ way of laying low is appearing on a television show. As a handicapped organization, the LPGA needed any publicity possible, so I’m sure they have a shrine of Donald Trump at headquarters. They probably want the attention more than Gulbis does. Who knows. Either way, does it matter?

And does it matter if Jessica Simpson was the reason for Tony Romo’s questionable QB performances last season? If she wasn’t a celebrity, would Romo have gotten so much flack? Nope. No one would’ve taken pictures.

But because of the public nature of their relationship, we, as invited voyeurs of their affairs, felt somehow involved in their relationship. We unconsciously granted ourselves the right to comment on it, even though it’s none of our business. How did this happen?

New media has provided a forum for us to interject our voices into anything we want, so we feel more entitled to have our opinions affect things. So, if you ever see Brett Favre strutting around in his Wranglers while attending the VMA’s with Jessica Simpson, remember: it might not be his choice. And if it was, so what? He’s still Brett Favre.

Allyson Kloster is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected].