Does Sports Need Superstars?
Poll Results: Do sports need superstars?
TheSandTrap.com Top Picks
I voted yes, but my reason is the lack of Nike ads that can say "Just do it".
There do not appear to be that many dominating sports figures anymore, and there might not be because of the advancement of sports training. All the athletes have access to similar training and equipment.
Maybe a genetically modified humanoid would be the next dominant sports star? Nike could have a new slogan "Just breed them"
It's a good question.
They do need them to grow.
Guys like Tiger and Beckham get the fringes involved.
Would 8 year olds be attracted to golf if Kenny Perry was #1?
Would young girls think golf was cool if, instead of Lexi, Lydia and Paula they had any number of LPGA players I could name?
Think of what Norman did for Australian golf. And think of the damage types like Peter Thomson can do with their stick-in-the-mud attitudes, despite his 5 Opens.
Absolutely ... they generate interest ... interest generates $$$$ ...
They give people something to banter about ... some people to try and emulate ... some people a hope that even for they too can overcome some obstacles ...
They are needed, and every once in awhile, one comes along that is good from more than the sport they are in ...
I'd argue that guys like Nadal would have just as much star power as Lendl to your typical US viewer IF there were some top US Men competing against him. In Europe, I think Nadal, Murray, Joker, and Roger are as big now as McEnroe, Lendl, Agassi, Pete Sampras were in their day (although McEnroe's outbursts did add to the excitement).
In golf currently, the amount of parity and depth of talent is likely hurting the TV popularity of the sport.
Public interest and TV ratings are going to be best when you have a charismatic and/or controversial superstar who is regularly in contention
I think indvidual sports probably do need their 'superstars' albeit ideally you'd prefer to have rivalries with different narratives which invites the spectator to support one over the other. I think this is preferable to one dominant indvidual who might generate a bit of awe in terms of raising the bar, but it can quickly become a bit tedious if its processional
I'm less certain about the need in team sports, albeit there is probably a bit of a chicken and egg thing here in so far as the media will extract a couple of marketable players in a successful team and present them as the superstars ultimately, as they need a tag to explain the success. One of the posts mentioned David Beckham, he'd be a perfect example. The successful Manchester United teams had more influential players that would better fit the description of superstar than he (if your analysis were restricted to the playing of the game and not his lifestyle) yet he was the one who we were asked to believe was the superstar. Note how he single handedly led England to international success - not! By contrast genuine superstars like Maradona, or Zidane did win World Cups in otherwise modest teams, which was undoubtedly down to their stunning contribution.
Those of you who've invoked tennis are of course describing something else, which I think you've pretty well acknowledge actually. The question you're asking is does "American sport, need American superstars?". I'm guessing that the popularity of tennis on TV has fallen in line with the decline of America's standing in the game? The sub text here is that 'if we can't win, we won't watch'. Again I think there's something which you've also touched on though which is that the genuine fan will watch the sport regardless of the nationality of the competitors, but that perhaps the casual sports fan will adopt a more partisan position. Personally I would expect golf to gain in popularity again not if Tiger Woods were playing, but if America could win a Ryder Cup (ideally with Woods being a part of it). I take a slightly more cynical view of these things, and tend to believe that viewing figures reflect success
One sport that really has suffered is the heavy weight boxing division when you compare it to the halcyon days of the early 70's. Here you had characters, a clutch of talented fighters, and a compelling narrative
There might be another distinction of course between a 'superstar' and a 'character'. Was Trevino a superstar? or was he a top player with personality?
I think golf has a dearth of characters and to some extent you might trace that to Phil Mickelson who seems to have established a blueprint for how to earn money with a Mr Clean image, and portfolio of endorsements whilst he tries to cultivate an all American image under the guidance of IMG (or similar). Admittedly we tend to cringe at it and it wouldn't sell much in Europe, but then it isn't aimed at us. Golf's rarely been a demonstrative game of passion, but it seems to me that there is a secret factory in the Californian desert somewhere churning out anodyne, white trouser wearing, college kids, with a good line in God, family and conservatism. So long as this remains the formative mould from which golfers are drawn, you aren't going to get many characters. Golf could really do with a bad guy (McEnroe) or wild child (young Agassi)
I think finally there is a question of context too. If you asked a marketing person, their answer would always be yes. If you asked the players or management of a team they'd probably say yes too, but I wouldn't be surprised if they sought to qualify it with a few caveats. A superstar in a team can help intimidate the opposition, but they can also become disruptive (rightly or wrongly). I was tempted to give the example Kevin Pietersen in cricket which won't mean anything, but perhaps Tiger Woods on the Ryder Cup is a better example, or Phil Mickelson using the cup to experiment with a new set of clubs
The relationship between the sport and the individual is key. Perhaps the danger occurs when the sport confuses the individuals popularity, with that of the sport, and makes plans and commitments for the future based on a false premise, but then the onus is for the sport to create and promote its next superstar.