Why Oscar Pistorius shouldn't surprise us
Most people have a dark side they manage to keep hidden from the world.
Every so often, however, it bubbles to the surface in a bone chilling manner. Say hello to Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee Olympic track and field star from South Africa who faces a murder rap in connection with the brutal shooting death of his girlfriend. The case of "The Blade Runner" is still being investigated and Pistorius is claiming innocence. However, frightening details of the man behind the famous athlete are emerging and they don't paint a very flattering picture. Fascinated with guns, a motorcycle daredevil, and accused of a physical altercation with a female in the past - just some of the sordid insights into Oscar that have been unveiled in the wake of this week's tragedy. As expected, the media is playing up the fascinating dichotomy of a boy who lost his legs before growing up to be one of the most famous sports personalities on the planet, only to end up in the middle of a sensational murder case.
But the public reaction?
Well, when it comes to big name athletes who take a huge tumble from grace, most people just aren't all that shocked anymore. Lance Armstrong finally coming clean on playing dirty; A-Rod mixed up in another steroid scandal; O.J. Simpson hosting a Super Bowl party in his prison cell - all examples of superstar athletes gone bad, leaving fans feeling jaded and let down.
Now, another famous sports name is back in the negative news cycle. Graham James is a former junior hockey coach accused of sexually abusing some of his players, including NHL star Theoren Fleury. Today, the Manitoba appeal court stepped up, altering James' two year sentence by extending his jail time to five years.
I mention James because his story happened to be my first lesson from the "people aren't always what they seem" life guide. In 1995 and '96, I was the radio play-by-play man for the Western Hockey League Calgary Hitmen, a team coached by James. I was immediately impressed with his hockey knowledge, well-read personality and incredible sense of humour. I liked the guy a lot. In fact at the end of my first season on the job I actually found myself fighting back tears as I left the team's farewell banquet, sad that I wouldn't see Graham and the players over the summer.
But everything changed the following season when the story broke about James and his serial abuse of ex-NHL'er Sheldon Kennedy. All of a sudden, I found myself looking back on my friendship with Graham and connecting some disturbing dots. For example, during one conversation on a bus trip home from a game, I recalled Graham telling me that his biggest pet peeve was watching people abuse their power. The irony, of course, is obvious for a man entrusted with the care of kids, only to abuse that sacred trust in such a horrible way.
So, forgive me for not joining the media chorus describing the Pistorius case as "shocking" and "unimaginable".
Because if a person's dark side is black enough, it will eventually emerge; something sports fans have become all too familiar with.