Icons…, the people we look up to. The people we want to be. The people who helps us escape harsh realities of life. In the 80s there was a plethora of icons and legends captivating us, children and adults alike. But does popularity supersede being accountable? I don’t think so.
January 2, 1987 Tempe Arizona
It was the University of Miami vs Penn State for the National Title in College Football. The heavily favored Hurricanes fell to Paterno’s Nittany Lions 14-10 behind a ferocious defense that picked off Heisman trophy winner Vinny Testeverde five times. Paterno, days later said, “I’m not going around saying we kicked their ears in, but we had more points. We had a bunch of kids that just believed they were going to win.” Just the kind of attitude that led most people to call him Joe – Pa, a father like demeanor always thinking of the children.
December 1, 1988 In a theater near you
The Naked Gun: From the files of police squad premiered across America, and Hall Of Fame running back O.J. Simpson co-starred as the clumsy police detective Nordberg. Simpson had already been in a bunch of made for T.V. movies produced by his own company and a T.V. series (named 1st and 10). The dive into comedy and ascension to the silver screen seemed to have Simpson on the right track in his life after football. The movie produced two sequals in which Simpson also appeared.
April 2, 1989 Trump Plaza Atlantic City
Wrestlemania 5 “The Mega Powers Explode”
Hulk Hogan was at the top of the wrestling world. Proven more so by his defeat of Macho Man Randy Savage for the WWF Title. As popular as Savage was nothing could stop the popularity (and revenue) machine known only as “Hulkamania”. The quote from Hogan himself, “What you gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you”. It ran alright it kept running for the better part of next 30 years.
So what went wrong?
It seems the very thing that makes an icon can be their destruction. Simpson real life movie would premier the morning of June 17th, 1994. His ex wife was murdered five days previous and the authorities and Simpson made an agreement that day. Instead Simpson was spotted in his friends A.C Cowlings car equipped with a large amount of cash, a disguise and a handgun. The rest of the story is well documented (Google O.J. Simpson and enjoy). The trial was in all honesty the 1st big reality show on television.
Paterno’s fate would be diffrent. The father figure who seemed to be the dad of a whole university was not able to save kids from a traumatizing experience? Not by his own hands, but acts of child molestation on his watch when he’s (again) the man in charge for over 50 years was too much for even him to dodge.
Hulk Hogan revolutionized wrestling, but it didn’t stop him on going on a racial tirade about his daughters then boyfriend. With every N-word that left his mouth, u could feel that popularity stronghold disintegrate. U could feel Hulkamania dying with every breath.
With Great power comes great responsibility, but truthfully if your an icon it should be “With great popularity comes great scrutiny.”
O.j. Simpson was acquitted of murder in court but his real life drama made him a social Paria.
Joe Paterno was fired as the head coach of Penn State and soon after died because let’s face it football is what he lived for. His record amount of wins (409) was stripped from the record books ( just recently restored) and his statue was taken down. Hulk Hogan was jettisoned from anything having to do with the WWE (F) including no mention of him on their website or Hall Of Fame page.
The very power that made these titans of sports and entertainment is what led to their destruction. There’s an everyday person out there that didn’t call the cops when a child got abused, another that probably killed a couple people but got off, and maybe even another that don’t like black people behind close doors. But hey, who would know everday people aren’t iconic.