If you take a quick look at Oscar Pistorius’s web site, it takes you more than a few seconds to get past all the inspiring photographs of the Paralympian to see the message about the incident involving the death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. If you look at the careful wording, you can see the lawyers wrote the text, but aren’t those pictures so undeniably awesome? Oscar’s such a nice guy in those shots, right?
Pistorius rose to fame at the 2012 London Olympics, where he ran on his carbon-fiber blades along side athletes who had their legs. Pistorius lost both legs as a baby, but his story of running on his prosthetics inspired people the world over, and he earned the nickname “Blade Runner” and the adoration of millions. It is a wonderful example of the human spirit; unfortunately, it does not have a storybook ending. Pistorius (26) is accused of shooting and killing Steenkamp (29) on Valentine’s Day. He claims he thought she was an intruder, but prosecutors presented evidence that they say proves that is impossible. He is currently out on 100,000 rand ($73,000) bail awaiting trial for premeditated murder.
Perhaps as O.J. Simpson’s trial was called “the trial of the century” back in the 1990s, we will have the next one here. It does not matter whether it is South Africa or Los Angeles; this is another example of athletes gone wild. How many times has the pattern been repeated? Again and again athletes disappoint us. They rape, murder, father children with multiple partners, they drink, they drug, and they exhibit unsportsmanlike conduct on the field and in public. And we seem complicit in that we continue to adore them, to heap praise on them, to raise them to the heights of Olympus as bronze heroes to be adored.
Until this day I still hear people say that O.J. was not guilty. I have heard the apologists for Alex Rodriguez (MLB), Plaxico Burress (NFL), Metta World Peace (NBA), Sean Avery (NHL), Tiger Woods (golf), and Mike Tyson (boxing) to name a few, and I could attach a list of athletes behaving badly that would be longer the Long Island Expressway.
Besides these athletes actually hurting their sport and the legions of fans who adore them (especially children), the consequences sometimes seem non-existent. O.J. got away with it for years (until jailed on a separate charge), and many simply go free. At this point the public seems almost inured to their transgressions, willing to almost ignore their crimes and misdemeanors for the sake of the team or sports in general.
This Pistorius case really is a tipping point for me. If this guy should get away with it, I think that we have turned an intractable corner. I do understand that there has to be a trial, but the evidence seems stacked against him. Pistorius and Steenkamp lived in a gated community, so an intruder seems implausible. Even if there was someone inside the bathroom, why not just yell through the door “I have a gun” and call police? Of course, there will be those who support Pistorius and make all kinds of excuses, especially citing his disability. Even Pistorius himself has used it to his advantage, saying that he was crawling on his stumps and felt intimidated and that’s why he fired.