Our young people need to turn to home for role models

LSU jumps in the BCS
October 16, 2012
Prep roundup: Week 7
October 16, 2012

I am a die-hard sports fan.

So many things in my life are dominated by the world of sports.

From the colors I wear to the things that I do, so many fundamental actions within my life are dictated by the following organizations and entities: Louisiana State University, the Dallas Cowboys, the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Rockets.

I’m a fanatic – there’s no other way around it. I don’t want to be different. Acceptance is the first form of rehabilitation, right?

Despite my fanaticism, I have always held a fine line within my life separating the real world and sports.

I’ve never idolized an athlete nor have I ever felt disappointed or let down when a person in the sporting world makes a mistake in judgment.

These people are human beings just like me – why should they be immune from mistakes?

To me, sports are purely a form of entertainment – nothing deeper than that.

This week provided me with yet another reason why that is the case.

Lance Armstrong – officially busted – ratted out by 11 of his teammates for what is being called the most sophisticated doping ring in the history of sports.

Another so-called role model down the drain.

I’m not surprised. You shouldn’t be either. It happens all of the time in today’s world.

Before I get into the root of my argument, let me say this – I have nothing against Lance Armstrong. His story is phenomenal. Anyone who survives cancer is a person worth publicizing and treasuring.

Those who survive cancer and reach the pinnacle of their professions? That’s an even higher level of success.

Heck, I will go so far as to say that I don’t even think the guy should lose his titles. How do we know the guys he competed against were all clean?

We don’t.

But that’s the problem – we simply do not know what these guys are doing away from the playing field.

So why should we idolize strangers whom we know nothing about?

It’s a set-up for failure for our community’s young people.

History agrees with me.

The examples are endless – everywhere you turn, you can find a real-life story of a sports hero who has let down the masses who idolized them.

Start in football – the most popular sport in our country.

Sure, players like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Calvin Johnson are icons with squeaky-clean records.

But for how long?

Ever heard of Mike Vick? In the early 2000s, Vick would have been the “clean” guy one would have listed as a true role model in the NFL.

He had talent and a polished image – he had endorsement money coming out of his ears through various outlets.

He lost it all in a dog-fighting ring – a crime that cost Vick millions of dollars, his reputation and also a few years of his life.

Unfortunately, Vick isn’t an isolated incident.

Just this past offseason, the following prominent NFL players were arrested for various misdeeds: Adrian Peterson, Dez Bryant, Marshawn Lynch, Nick Fairley, Brandon Meriweather and Justin Blackmon.

In the coming weeks and in the next offseason, similar instances will surely occur.

Again I state: Should we really be looking toward the TV and our sports figures to be our role models and heroes?

I think not.

It may sound like I’m picking on the NFL, but I’m not – similar instances can be found in any sport.

The NBA? Kobe Bryant was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. Sure, the charges were eventually dropped, but that’s still a sticky situation to be in.

Other stars who have spats with the law include Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd, Ron Artest and Gilbert Arenas.

Former stars before them like Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley weren’t model citizens either.

In golf it’s the same. Tiger Woods is the king – of both performance and scandal.

In baseball, there’s no reason to even list names because it’s ever-changing. No one can even have a solid season anymore without suspicion of Human Growth Hormone.

That’s because history shows us that a lot of the dominant players from the past decade were under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs.

All of the above examples are males.

What about athletic role models for our young girls?

In the WNBA, arguably the sport’s biggest star Diana Taurasi has been arrested in the past for DWI.

In track, the biggest star of my lifetime, Marion Jones, has had all of our accomplishments stripped because of doping.

There’s just no way out – every sport for every gender has its share of controversy.

I know I sound like a grandpa railroading athletes – that’s not my purpose.

I just want to strongly encourage our young people to look within their own lives to find those that they should emulate.

What we see on the TV isn’t reality – it’s only 10 percent of a particular sports star’s life. We don’t see what’s behind the uniform. It is those things that truly make a hero unique.

Role models should be made at home.

They are moms and dads. They could also be aunts, uncles, cousins or even brothers or sisters.

They are policemen, doctors, teachers and firemen.

Let’s cherish those around us for a change.

Maybe then, we won’t feel as let down when an athlete does something to splatter their name.