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The Celebrity Addiction to Fame, A 'Pitiful' Issue

by on March 02, 2015 6:15 AM

The Penn State faithful were up in arms following last week's $13 million THON total and the stupid remarks made on Twitter by an ESPN personality.

The ESPN personality in question has apparently been less than kind in his previous comments about the Sandusky scandal and Penn State in general but particularly in the recent repealing of the sanctions and the return of the 112 wins.

After THON and the Penn State community's amazing effort in the support of The Four Diamonds Fund, an organization that provides financial support for research and treatment of pediatric cancer, a 1982 graduate of Penn State sent a "tweet" to said ESPN personality with a "WE ARE" and included a link to a THON video.

His response was "Pitiful."

The Twitter-sphere exploded with Penn Staters calling ESPN guy out on his disrespect for the university. He continued to fire back. Fast forward to the end of the story and ESPN comes out with an apology, the sportscaster issues his own lame apology and then ESPN announces that he will be suspended for five days (with pay). There is an on-line petition with a mounting number of signatures requesting that the employee be permanently canned from ESPN.

In the service of not enabling the attention addiction that seems to be the curse of celebrity, I refuse to even type his name.

According to the experts on parenting, temper tantrums often result when a child is angry or frustrated and symptoms are often more intense if the child is tired or hungry, stressed or has other physical, emotional or social issues. It is suggested that ignoring the tantrums and not reinforcing or giving in to the demands or the negative attention are the best bet for minimizing the tantrums.

The same goes for frustrated sports personalities.

How many times in today's 24 hour news and entertainment cycle and with the fame of the internet do we see those who become "attention addicts" make decisions to keep themselves in the spotlight?

In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Think of the people over the years that have seen the shine from the spotlight start to fade and then made the decision to get back on the public stage – even if it means negative press.

It isn't an awards show without Kanye West stepping on stage to put his name out in front of the real winner. His in-laws, the notorious Kardashian family, have made an industry out of bad press. Miley Cyrus. Lindsay Lohan. A fading actress or actor is "shocked" by the release of a sex tape. A has-been comes out and announces a drug or sex addiction or a religious conversion.

Psychologist Belisa Vranich calls it "acquired narcissism." Unlike typical narcissism which is generally considered a personality disorder that involves an exaggerated sense of self and obsessive self-love, movie stars, athletes, politicians and other successful people often develop the craving for attention and the grandiose sense of their self-importance in response to their acquired success.

Hard work that brings success sometimes brings fame and privilege – and an adoring public. These former nobodies suddenly have money and fame, mansions and fans. They get special treatment in restaurants, travel to be the best places and are asked for their autographs.

Pretty soon they begin to believe their own press and become almost addicted to the fame and the reflection in the mirror. It's rarely a surprise anymore when one of the rich and famous makes a decision that leaves the rest of us saying "Huh?" In truth, the addiction to fame is likely as maladaptive as addiction to a chemical.

The common folk can get a feel for it on Facebook and Twitter and other social media when we post a picture or tell a story about something that happened to us or an important "thought" and then people start clicking on the LIKE button. Imagine that multiplied exponentially to include your picture on the cover of magazines and an adoring public that hangs on your every word. Pretty heady stuff. It's almost understandable how someone might start "jonesing" for a little more time in the public eye when those awards start to fade.

Through social media and bad decisions, even a has-been celebrity or sports personality can turn up the wattage of the spotlight and make it last just a little bit longer.

The last time this same sportscaster made particularly stupid comments he was fired from his job and then eventually picked up by ESPN. This time he disparages a whole university including its students and alumni and gets a five day vacation with pay.

It's really not much different than the toddler in the department store shopping cart that gets the toy after throwing a temper tantrum. We will see this behavior again.

Reinforcing bad decisions and attention seeking guarantees it will be repeated.


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For the Love of the Game — and Beyond

Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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