Are Sports Stars More Badly Behaved than Ever?

James Hunt


If one were to go by the incessant coverage of stars behaving badly in our newspapers and online, you could be forgiven for thinking that sportspeople in the professional era have been corrupted by greater fame and increased pay-packets and are descending into barbarism. Whether they’re getting drunk and behaving obscenely in public, swearing at officials on tv, assaulting members of the public or getting caught using illicit substances, today’s sports starts are frequently charged with setting a poor example for younger generations to follow.

Sportsmen behaving badly is hardly a new phenomenon however and it is often forgotten just how questionable past athlete’s conduct often was. Modern day stars face far greater scrutiny from the media and watching public than in former times, and this has also resulted in them receiving more advice and guidance on how to be a positive role model. As Chris Nathaniel, sports agent with NVA Entertainment Group, has described with regards to the treatment of his clients, “the talents are also protected against bad influence, as well as developed for life after football.” This level of talent management has evidently been in response to greater media and public scrutiny and has meant that, despite current misconceptions, the bad behaviour of modern day athletes pales in comparison to that of their predecessors.

To prove this hypothesis, we have uncovered just a few examples of former athlete’s behaviour that you simply wouldn’t see in the modern era. Firstly, we will take you way back to the 1950 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Liverpool where Denis Compton, winger for the Gunners and star batsman for Middlesex and England (this really was a different era), drank several measures of whiskey at half time in an attempt to improve his hitherto unsatisfactory performance. Unsurprisingly, he was instrumental in the second half in leading his side to a 2-0 victory!

It is perhaps a blessing that certain former star athletes achieved fame and success at a time when media scrutiny was minimal. Take James Hunt for example, the Formula 1 world champion who was known for going on fortnight-long alcohol and drug-fuelled escapades in preparation for his races. Australian Open Champion Vitas ‘Broadway’ Gerulaitis was treated for a cocaine addiction following years of partying and decadence and supposedly one year even managed to rack up the third highest personal American-Express bill in the world.

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