The latest is Joe Paterno; he's certainly not the first. And it's why there's one creed fans should remember: If your favorite coach or athlete is too good to be true, it's because he or she probably is. Every few years another reminder is offered.
And these examples are why people like Charles Barkley should be even more beloved. What about Barkley would shock us? That he likes to gamble? Go clubbing? We already know these things. There's no mystery about Barkley.
But when it comes to coaches and athletes who not only try to shape an image but protect it, there's a lot to distrust. So many in the media, especially at the national level, are guilty of perpetuating a myth. They fly into town for a couple days, see a guy at his best and think that's who he really is. It certainly happened with Paterno, with national columnists or commentators defending him in November, somehow buying into the notion that he was a naive, grandfatherly figure -- like Uncle Leo from "Seinfeld." As if that's how you coach 46 years in a place and set all-time winning records. Guys like this always -- always -- know how to sell themselves and to whom.
Look at the mighty who have fallen in the past five years. In each case there was surprise over their transgressions, seemingly going against their characters. There was Alex Rodriguez and steroids. But few baseball players were more protective of their image than A-Rod, as baseball writers who have long known him will attest.
There was Tiger Woods, too. Maybe you didn't think he was a saint, but that much of a philanderer? Jim Tressel basked in the narrative of him as a righteous man, only to be brought down when he, too, put winning above all else. These men aren't alone, either.
The more we get to know about icons, the more we know they're flawed. Sometimes deeply. In this era of nonstop information, it's hard to protect an image -- unless it's a legitimate one. Be wary of those who come across as too perfect or too saintly. More often than not, we eventually learn the truth.
- John Keim