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Narcissism in Athletics



A Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined as having: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or

behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five or more of the following:

1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance;

2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;

3) believes that he or she is "Special" and unique;

4) requires excessive admiration;

5) has a sense of entitlement;

6) is interpersonally exploitative;

7) lacks empathy;

8) is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her; and

9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

A personality disorder is thought to be a characterological flaw, i.e. a trait rather than a temporary state like depression. If therapy and environment can treat such a disorder, can an environment create it, as well?

Enter the athlete. Johnny is a fictitious but not so hypothetical young man. Being the star of the high school football and baseball teams, Johnny is handled with kid gloves. The school newspaper tells him how good he is and how everyone depends upon him. The local press carries articles on him and his team weekly. Local athletic support groups have him as their guest at banquets to honor him. At school he is accorded all the rights and privileges of the Big Man On Campus (BMOC). All the girls are impressed. All the underclassmen constantly seek his approval. He gets pre-registered each semester with a special choice of instructors. When visiting officials come to the campus, he is pulled out of class to be introduced. In some cases, teachers may actually be told that he “does not fail” any classes and does not receive anything lower than a “C.” When he is a senior, college recruiters entertain him. His name is plastered all over the newspapers prior to and after his decision on a college. Just for running with a pigskin or batting a ball he receives a scholarship in the six figure range over four years, not to mention special meals, plane flights, special connections for a variety of uses, and special considerations from the faculty.

From college to the pros everything is magnified. His contract may be one of the best in the sport. He has

access to anything he wants whenever he wants it. “Aw, shucks, folks! It weren’t nothing,” is a difficult posture to assume when everyone has told you that you are unique and have the potential for unlimited success that few can match. In athletics there exists the expression, “He read so many of his press clippings that he began to believe them.” Sex, drugs including steroids, feature articles, and any number of material things are constantly thrown at his feet. Aberrant behavior is tolerated in the name of a win-at-all-costs ethic. Temptation is a powerful aphrodisiac.

Does Johnny have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or is he just a product of our alter egos?

Tikkun Olam- heal the world. Leave it a better place when you leave.

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