The Impact of Media on Sports World
Through the process of selection and omission, the media influences the perception of public figures regularly, but I dont think that there is always a conscious decision to portray a person this way or that way at the base of it.
If a decision were to be made to show someone in a positive or negative light, it would be relatively easy to construct a representation that supports either. Just choose the heroic moments of a sporting career (triumph after a score, after a win or a decisive moment) to make them look good, or the moments of failure or error to make them look bad.
There's one particular aspect of sports that attracts a lot of negative press and can mean the end of public support for an athlete. That's in the area of drug use. Even when an athlete uses drugs that are more recreational than performance enhancing it is usually pounced upon by the press and tends to have a very negative impact on the athlete.
Most sports personalities are in fact business that depends on positive public opinion for its continuing success: the better liked and better known a sports personality is, the more valuable he or she will be to his/her sport and sponsors.
This is especially true for those at the top of their respective disciplines, where most of their income would come from sponsorships rather than salary or prize money.
In order to maximize value, the management team of top athletes will almost always try to portray them in the most positive light possible, and the media plays along with this portrait obliging with glowing coverage of their athletic feats as well as puff pieces on their philanthropy, piety, and exemplary family life.
As a consequence of the creation of this positive image, the public then considers the sportsperson as someone worthy of emulation and adoration, and is willing to pay more to buy goods and services associated with him or her, be it Wheaties or game tickets.
The flip side of this situation is that with a higher profile comes harsher scrutiny. The athlete is human after all, and as such, is prone to make mistakes; when he or she does, the media will report their failings vigorously, since the public is always extremely interested in consuming unflattering information about public figures.
And so, a champion golfer was portrayed by the media as an outstanding human being, devoted to his family and his sport until his wife finds texts to some of his mistresses on his phone and decides to take a nine iron to the back window of his Escalade while he’s fleeing for his life, in the middle of the night.
In the span of a couple of days, Tiger Woods went from being the “Greatest Golfer in the World” and unimpeachable role model to an uncaring cheater and liar with a penchant for cheap hookers.
Of course, neither portrait is completely accurate, but as far as sports personalities, the media is interested in selling fantasies, not realities.