Downside of Celebrity: The Curious Case of Mario Williams

When people of fame experience personal problems, carefully crafted information becomes placed in the public eye as a strategy by one or both parties on either side of a dispute. The battle is often fought in the public eye so the media becomes the vehicle for the public to become judge, jury and executioner. In Mario Williams’ case, it would be the execution of his public persona as an NFL player.

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Professional athletes devote a lifetime of to creating the ‘proper’ public image. This persona is not just for physical intimidation purposes, but for the financial gain secured through contracts with large corporations for the rights to use this persona in their advertisements.

It appears the majority of professional football players seek a persona that consists of grit and total dedication to the job. Even if their personal life may be colorful, the savvy professional rarely crosses that macho-image line. To expose that image with revelations of deeply personal and emotional issues can become damaging to the desired public image, and thus securing lucrative financial endorsements.

Regrettably, Mario Williams now faces the dreaded scenario regarding his public persona via the exposure of private matters between two people in a highly intimate relationship. Apparently, he chose to fire the first salvo, a curious choice which leaves this fan wondering about the deeper motivation to do so.

No matter what the stimulus for the ‘event’, the price to be paid when you pull that trigger results in letting the genie out of the bottle. Once the issue becomes public, all bets are off in terms of the real issue of the matter being appropriately addressed. Truth is distorted, and the end game becomes the goal instead of the solution.

As a retired shrink and avid Buffalo Bills fan, this particular situation is not only disturbing, it is cringe-worthy to watch this play out in the court of public opinion in such a predictable manner. Fans often become armchair psychologists, and the rush to judgment about what should remain private between two parties becomes a source of public entertainment and titillation.

It’s been well established for hundreds of years, that most humans (though not all) relish gossip about people whose lives are perceived to be far more interesting than their own. Many people base their opinions on what they read in the media, which may have little or no bearing on the real context of the evidence presented by either party in any dispute.

My opinion on the matter is probably different from most other fans. As with most issues that develop in life, the real reason behind them may have nothing to do with the specific issue at hand. Whatever motivated Mario to file a lawsuit is probably rooted in a much different place than a battle over a ring.

Regardless, the genie is out of the bottle and now the outcome remains in the hands of lawyers, the media, and ultimately how fans will inevitably react to what is published in the press. His persona is no longer completely his to control, no matter how much he may try to believe that is not the case.

Why do so many professional athletes find themselves immersed in a battle between their public image and personal issues? So much of what goes into developing the mindset of a professional athlete revolves around the ability to control the outcome of a sport based upon physical dominance. Athletes at this level MUST develop a strong sense of ultimate control in order to become the best of the best.

The energy devoted by coaches and people in the inner circle of a professional athlete of Mario Williams stature often demand a singular focus on winning. Unfortunately, with so much mental energy devoted to developing that portion of a person’s mental and emotional development, little resources are left to concentrate on developing healthy emotional balance in their personal lives. Many don’t have much in the way of personal lives at all when consumed with becoming an elite athlete.

(Photo by AP)
(Photo by AP)

This leaves many professional athletes in a situation that may sometimes lead to unhealthy emotional development. There is ample evidence that holds true when you consider how many professional athletes have significant challenges in creating emotionally healthy intimate relationships after achieving fame and fortune.

Many do not develop an effective radar to help them distinguish genuine love from gold diggers looking for an easy ride in life. This becomes exacerbated by the time demands of their professional work, and the allure to be drawn into an environment where many emotionally unhealthy people tend to congregate. For a professional athlete whose time is already a precious commodity, that reduces the opportunity for them to connect in healthier relationships.

No one knows what motivated Mario Williams to file a lawsuit against his ex-fiance in order to retrieve the engagement ring he gave to her. The general public will be privy to only what lawyers on each side wish to portray. Fans will inevitably rush to judgement based upon limited information, with little or no understanding of what the salient points are in terms of the real motivation behind this course of action.

From this fan’s perspective, I wish I could reach out to Mario and let him know that there are people out there who do not rush to judgment, who care deeply about his well being, not just the titillating details of tabloid journalism. There are people who understand the challenges professional athletes face in managing their personal lives in today’s society.

As a Buffalo Bills football fan, I hope that Mario is able to ignore the circus and channel all that emotional frustration out on Tom Brady and every other QB he faces when the score starts counting. Indeed, that might be the best revenge against the media, and any or all who choose to judge him based upon limited strategically placed information.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.