Despite what marketers and sportswriters want you to believe, professional athletes are not usually that different off the court than the general population. OK, sure, there’s the whole “millions of dollars” thing that lends itself to a different lifestyle than we live, but as people, athletes have the same different personalities and interests as anyone else.
That doesn’t stop sportswriters from treating every athlete with a unique set of skills or interests as if they were the greatest and most surprising person who ever lived. Steve Nash has political opinions! Alan Page is a judge! Amos Zereoue likes to cook! The latest example of athlete-as-human-curiosity is that of Keith Miller, a former Arena football player and current New York Met opera singer. My goodness, a retired minor league football that can sing opera? Break out the sports cliches!
You might think the august NEW YORK TIMES would be above such laziness, but you’d be wrong. Miller was a fullback at the University of Colorado back in the mid-90s and spent a couple years bouncing around the fringes of professional football. He spent a brief amount of time in camp with the Denver Broncos, but from the tenor of the profile, you’d think he was Emmitt Smith. Examples (with eye-rolling emphasis added):
Keith Miller is perhaps the only opera singer who can talk about “running an aria” the way a fullback talks about running for daylight — as he used to do, before he called an audible on his football career.
Now he is heading toward the big leagues of opera with equal parts discipline and informality, quoting Phil Jackson, the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, and referring to Luciano Pavarotti as Pav.
That’s not to say that Miller’s second career isn’t impressive - it is. But this isn’t Pat Tillman we’re talking about here. Miller’s football career wasn’t exactly going places, unless you consider playing professional football in both Finland and North Dakota “going places”.
But of course, the writer was sufficiently blown away by the idea that a football player might have other, better talents than playing football that he had to breathlessly cover Miller’s career change with a reverence and seriousness only seen, well, in sports reporting. It’s OK to be a sports fan and not worship the ground its participants walk on. It’s not called being cynical, it’s called perspective.