From Tiger Woods to Lance Armstrong, we’ve seen numerous examples in recent years of more or less pathological behavior from those in the sports world. Simply displaying unsavory behavior doesn’t mean someone has a condition as fundamental as a personality disorder or psychopathy. But these cases have at least raised questions about the culture of professional sports and the types of characters that sometimes flourish within it.
Enter David James, a British professional soccer goalkeeper.
James, in a column entitled “Psychopaths haunt the Beautiful Game – and I may be one of them” published in The Guardian, writes about these very questions from his perspective.
James says he has been reading a lot about psychopaths lately. Many of us have, which is a reflection of the growing awareness about this and other related conditions – fostered by a recent proliferation of books, films, articles and other works on the subject – that this site exists to help document. And when people first start learning about the subject, it often provokes an epiphany and leads them to start considering and noticing its influence within their life sphere.
Naturally, James began to consider his own arena – that of professional soccer. And, in doing so, he was struck by how many of the traits of psychopaths are common among his colleagues. In his column, he especially raises the issue of how professional sports, despite often involving teams, has become very much focused on glorifying individual participants.
He also looks at:
- How the transient nature of the sports lifestyle, in which players are frequently traded to new teams and cities, encourages them to easily make and disconnect from social ties
- The prevalence of lying among athletes
- How early training involves what he sees as abuse and bullying
James is even led to question whether he himself might be a psychopath.
Like many immediately after a first introduction to psychopathy, David James may be overreacting and perceiving its specter more than is merited. But this questioning is part of a healthy and important stage in a process of coming to grips with the reality of how these conditions actually do influence our world, whether that be the sports world or any other system of which we are part.
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