They’re all living the life every single sports-loving kid across the country hopes to experience one day, but is it worth the price?  Kobe Bryant is back in the national spotlight for reasons unrelated to his superhuman abilities on the basketball court.  Barry Bonds is portrayed as a baseball villain, despite beating federal prosecutors on all of its most serious charges and walked out of a United States Courthouse flashing the victory sign.  Fastballer Roger Clemens is currently visiting his tailor for nice suits as he prepares to walk in and out of a federal courtroom for several weeks later this spring.

They’re three of the world’s biggest sports stars, yet we’re talking about everything but their athletic accomplishments.  Did they create the situations currently facing them?  Is the media chomping at the bit to chew them up and spit them out?   Have these three superstars made poor decisions?  Whatever the case, Kobe, Bonds, Clemens and other sports celebrities can’t breathe these days without gossip websites shoving a small camera in their faces.  But perhaps some of these troubles can be avoided with better decision making and advisers.

Kobe should have known better.  He’s my favorite basketball player, but when he uttered the gay slur, I knew the worst was yet to come.  I was watching the game and could clearly read his lips.  Although Kobe’s slur wasn’t directed at a gay person, it doesn’t make it any better.  It’s still wrong and offensive.  I don’t want to hear him say it.  I want to see him pulling up for a long three in the playoffs.  That’s the Kobe I want.

No. 24 uttered the word out of frustration with a referee.  But nevertheless it’s a word that’s very hurtful to the gay community, and he knows that.  In fact, he’s been through enough personal issues in his life.  I’m sure some women across the country have never forgiven him for the sexual assault charges in Denver a few years back.  The charges were dropped, but Bryant’s image took a huge hit, and it took him a while to recover.  He was finally back to being the NBA‘s coverboy and now this.

In fact, I was just watching one of Kobe’s NBC public service announcements.  He is the face of the NBA.  Don’t believe the hype about LeBron being the man.  In time, perhaps, but Kobe is still the King.  Furthermore, he’s too old to make those kinds of mistakes.

Big time sports legends like Kobe have to understand the camera is always rolling.  It never blinks, and there’s always one trained on you unless you’re in the privacy of your home.  From the moment he drives out of his estate in Los Angeles, Kobe is being photographed and tracked by the paparazzi and mainstream media awaiting his arrival at the arena.

If you’re Kobe, you can’t afford to do what you did the other night in front of a national TV audience.  Someone who loves him should tell him that.  Someone who cares about him.  Not someone with his hand in Kobe’s pocket waiting for another handout.

Right or wrong, the media jumped on the Kobe gay slur and ran with it.  ESPN was running the same video and soundbites for three days, and counting.  Did it deserve that kind of coverage?  Doesn’t matter.  He’s a big star and the sports world is always looking for the big story.  Why?  Because that’s what they do.  Ratings. Viewership.  Target audience.  Demographics.  Revenue.  You get the picture.

As for Barry Bonds, he might as well be dressed as Darth Vader, right?  Some believe he helped create the negative persona that forms a black cloud around him whenever he leaves the San Francisco Bay area.  Who knows if that is true, but one thing is for sure: He ain’t gonna win any popularity contests.  He did however win his court case against a group of blood thirsty federal prosecutors, so to speak.

Baseball’s all-time home runs leader was found guilty of one count of obstruction of justice, and likely won’t do any jail time.  The government couldn’t nail him on lying about whether he took human growth supplements, and looked quite silly at the end of the day.  They’ve been chasing this guy for years.  They’ve spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars prosecuting this case, and couldn’t get the verdict.  I guess we won’t see any new federal prosecutors being promoted in San Francisco any time soon, right?

Bonds doesn’t care for the media, and that’s putting it lightly.  He snarls before the TV cameras.  He looks downright miserable most of the time.  It all makes Bond look kind of suspicious and shifty.  If anyone could use an image makeover, it’s Bonds.  How can the all-time home run leader not be a likable and lovable guy?

When I was a kid, the all time home run leader was loved and respected.  You’d never hear a bad thing about Hank Aaron.  He was very laid back, but everyone liked him.  He didn’t have a TV commercial on the air every sixty seconds, but he was a popular figure.  Carried himself well.  Very respectful and classy.  Humble.  America likes humble.

I’ll say this about Bonds.  Every time something is printed about him, it’s usually negative.  We rarely see something in print, on the web, or on television that focuses on something positive about the guy.  He doesn’t help matters much with the way he carries himself sometimes, but when I see his face flash on the screen or on a web page, I know he did something wrong—or at least the media tells us that.

It’s gotta be tough growing up as the child of a celebrity.  Bobby Bonds was also a superstar when he starred for the San Francisco Giants.  He was one of the best players of his generation, or for any generation for that matter.  Barry was always at his side.  In the dugout.  In the outfield.  At the news conferences.  Maybe that determines how you act around people when you become a grownup.  I don’t know.  Steroids or not, Bonds has lived his entire life in a fishbowl.   From son of a famous major leaguer, to Arizona State, to the Giants and finally to the federal courthouse.

Roger Clemens has been hiding.  Cameras haven’t caught a picture of this guy in months.  He comes out of his cubby-hole when he wants to profess his innocence, but other than that he’s become invisible.  Like Kobe and Bonds, he isn’t helping himself in the eyes of the public.  We think of one thing these days when we see Clemens: Human growth.

I’ll say this about The Rocket: He’s fighting till the end and has steadfastly denied using ‘roids.  Like the others two, when you see his face or name these days it has nothing to do with a record-setting career.  I hope for his sake, the allegations are untrue, because he has spent tons of money defending himself and it isn’t over.

Clemens should be having the time of his life.  One of the greatest pitchers of all time according to the record books.  Instead, whenever you see him he’s walking away from the cameras and has little to say.  There was a time when he was the golden boy.  Now the gold is a little tarnished.  Has the media been unfair with Clemens?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

The Rocket doesn’t strike a sympathetic pose when you seen him.  He’s defiant and slightly argumentative when asked about steroid use.  He certainly doesn’t help his image by running away from the accusations.  But does he have a choice?  He knows whenever a reporter is present, they’ll ask him about one thing, and one thing only.  Perhaps he’s tired of addressing the subject.  His handlers however, should learn a thing or two about “spinning.”  Controlling the message might help him.  But maybe spinning is the least of their worries with a federal trial looming.

Kobe, Bonds, Clemens and all sports celebrities deserve a little privacy.  They also deserve the benefit of the doubt sometimes.  The only thing we really know about these superstars is what we see on the web and television.  That’s where we form our misguided opinions.  They deserve a little space and a little freedom.  But if a sports stud should find himself entangled in personal and legal problems, unfortunately a camera will always be waiting outside their door.

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