Retired management executive
Yorba Linda, California
Contemporary men are desperately searching for heroes in their lives. We're wanting for role models at a time when the ranks of positive male role models are fairly thin. So many athletes undeserving of our loyalty have been glorified by the press and glorified by Madison Avenue. Every little kid wants to be like Mike. Everybody wants to have their face on the Wheaties box and go to Disneyland after the big game.
"I always said I never wanted to hear anything negative," Mazzoleni says. "To this day, I always say, 'Rome wasn't built in a day.' I never let anybody run down the Packers. Even when Tony Mandarich was here and all the sportswriters wrote that he was a bust, I said, 'Give him a chance.'"
Some grown men even buy posters, autographed 8x10s and trading cards of their favorites. They build tchotchke shrines to athletes they'll never meet. And maybe they don't want to, wouldn't chance it to burst their bubbles. They follow athletes with a dedication that is almost mystical, although others may consider such devotion more appropriate for young boys.
There's a downside to forming such attachments, too. Careers don't last forever. And winning streaks are usually followed by losing streaks.
"The fans who keep their loyalties to the players the longest really turn with vindictiveness," Silva says. "We saw it in 1992 with the New Orleans Saints. The fans were 500 percent behind them during the season. Sellout, frenzied crowds that loved their team all the way up to the playoffs. Then the team lost for the second year in a row in the first game of the playoffs. The fans were ready to hang Bobby Ebert. He had a rough game and he made some decisions that contributed to the team's loss, but he was singled out and taken to task quite heavily. The talk shows there were relentless, lambasting Ebert."