CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 3 . . . . October 6, 2000
But Shaq didn't get upset over the controversy. It was all free publicity for him. One of the curious things about celebrity is that any attention at all is good. It doesn't matter whether it is pro or con. As long as your name is in the papers, you remain in he public's mind. All that matters is the attention itself. And Shaq was about to get more of it.Even before Shaq decided to leave Louisiana State University and become eligible for the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft, he was deemed one of the most marketable young players ever. In the world of sports marketing, this was somewhat odd. He had not led his college team to a NCAA championship, and it was doubtful that he would develop into a dominating player of the caliber of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Patrick Ewing or Michael Jordan. However, he signed lucrative endorsements with Pepsi, Spalding, and Reebok. He became an instant multi-millionaire.
Shaq seems to be a fine individual who deserves credit for his hard work in developing his athletic ability; he has a solid work ethic and is a good team player; and he spends a reasonable portion of his millions of dollars on worthwhile charities. However, the most interesting aspect of this standard sport's biography is its apparent, unapologetic, admiration for the packaged cult of celebrity surrounding this 7 foot 1 inch (216 cm), 315 pound (140 kilo) basketball player. It leads one to the obvious questions: Without marketing, would Shaquille as The Shaq exist? Is this guy all sizzle; where's the steak?
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the great wealth that success in sports can bring to players in today's arenas. What is unfortunate, however, is that many young fans reading this book will focus on the crass one-dimensional values the merchandizing of Shaq advocates. There is a place for this book in the classroom; teachers may want to direct students' attention to the real virtues of sport versus the unreality of modern sport's marketing techniques. This book is a good place to start that lesson.
Ian Stewart lives in Winnipeg, MB, and is a regular contributor to CM and to the book review pages of the Winnipeg Free Press.
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