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Villains, fools or heroes? Sports stars as role models for young people

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Sporting texts are designed to prioritize, personalize and sensationalize characters in an attempt to capture audience attention. The sporting hero has traditionally been perceived of as epitomizing social ideals and masculine virtues, and as embodying values that learnt on the playing fields will readily transfer into everyday life. However, growing media intrusion signifies the contemporary sports star as a 'damaged hero' - the male sports celebrity exemplifying contemporary laddishness, drunken exploits, wife and girlfriend beatings and gay relationships, all of which influence the image of the modern day sports hero. In contrast, female sport stars are well documented as marginalized, trivialized and objectified, to the extent which sports heroines are both invisible and questionable as role models for young girls. This article discusses ways in which sport stars are constructed as role models for young people. It cites instancing examples from the sports calendar of the 'Summer of sport' 1996, in its discussion of the media construction of sports stars as villains, fools or heroes. It identifies the gender differentiated readings of sports stars as heroes and heroines and concludes that the ways in which media critics accord hero and role model status does not necessarily reflect the opinions of young people.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: 01 October 2001

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