“Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.” ~ Carl Jung
The 65-game suspension of Ryan Braun, the looming specter of more suspensions being handed out, and the NFL’s ongoing player problems with legal troubles, drug use, etc.–it’s all left me to wonder: Where have all our sports heroes gone?
Guys get into trouble for taking performance enhancing drugs (PED), then swearing up and down that they’ve never taken anything in their life. They claim that even asking them the question is laughable (as if they are the victim). Ryan Braun, alone, made such strenuous denials and protests 18 months ago. He held a press conference, where he claimed that he’d been vindicated, and that justice had been served for him. (He’d won his appeal for a 50-game suspension for his failed drug test. Of course, his win was largely due to the mishandling of his urine sample.)
He’s not the only one… Earlier this year, Lance Armstrong finally admitted that he’d used PEDs for all seven of his Tour De France titles. That was after years-and-years of denials, lies and attempts-to-steamroller his fellow athletes into silence.
When I was growing up, I had my sports heroes. Maybe my heroes were never really choir boys, but taking a PED: NO! They lived and failed on talent. I loved Will Clark (in my eyes, he had the sweetest swing in baseball). There was Ken Griffey Jr., with another great swing (and a great ballplayer).
There was my love of football. I loved watching Dan Fouts, Kevin Mack, Earnest Byner, Bernie Kosar, and, of course, my all time favorite: Brett Farve. These guys weren’t perfect angels, but they played their sport clean, the right way. Brett Farve went into rehab for painkiller addiction early on in his career (a drug, yes, but not a PED).
So I ask myself:
- Is my son going to grow up with no sport heroes to look up to?
- Do I want my son to think that in order to get ahead in sports (heck, in life) is to cheat, and lie to get ahead?
I know Charles Barkley once famously said, “I am not a role model”… And, maybe that’s what those players really believe.
But, kids see it different. They look up to those guys, try and mimic them, model their game after them. Those men are examples of what the kids want to grow up to be: the best in the game at what they do (like their sports heroes live, or on tv). Right now, my son mimics T-Rex because he sees him on tv. At age 2, big-and ferocious is what he wants to grow up to be.
Will that change as he grows older? Maybe (probably). As a parent, I want him to model his behavior after the most stand-up T-Rex out there (if that’s what he really wants to be or become).
I don’t think heroes are supposed to be perfect, but they should represent an idea of perfection–something we want to strive toward.
Don’t get me wrong… Our sports heroes need to are flawed. They are human. And, we all tend to fall down (at least) now and then. It’s not those slight, human failings we’re talking about! These days, our sports heroes tend to fall really hard.
And, yes, I believe a lot of sports are trying to make changes–to better their sports. They’re trying to get PED-use out, and clean-up their image.
(I’m not painting all baseball and football players with the same wide brush, because there are lots of clean athletes in both sports. I believe they far out-number the players that use PEDs. Sadly for them, as often happens, a small segment has the larger group portrayed in an unfavorable light.)
This generation of athletes should learn and come-to-understand this quote:
“We are apt to forget that children watch examples better than they listen to preaching.” ~ Roy L. Smith
I share your fears about sports stars and the way some of them act. In addition to cheating (e.g. performance enhancing drugs), I do get a bit frustrated at the way many the are sometimes unsporting attitudes where players don’t break rules but hardly act in an exemplary manner.
I agree with that. I believe good sport role models do exist. Sadly, out of a few thousand athletes out there, it is the 20 or 30 guys that give a lot of those good guys a bad name.
They are role models whether they want to be or not. I wish they weren’t but the truth is kids look up to them. Check out this post. It’s on the same topic – http://larrydbernstein.com/trying-to-explain-baseball/
Good article Larry, thank you for sharing.
Glad you liked it.