All you hear about these days on TV, talk radio shows and in water cooler conversations is the behavior of superstar atheletes. Invariably each conversation or show includes a segment about "What are we supposed to say to our children", and " What are our children supposed to think about this?". Well, our children are supposed to be educated and guided by their parents, not their sports idols. Simply put, too often these young atheletes make poor decisions due to immaturity, too much money at a young age, and peer pressure.
I think the behavior of some of the atheletes is really poor, don't get me wrong. I think there needs to be stiffer and stiffer punishments for them, if for nothing else than to remove them from the limelight and deter this type of behavior from other atheletes. By the same token, I don't have an issue with letting my 2 young children know that there are people in the world that make poor decisions, that do things that are unacceptable in society. It is difficult to hold reverence for an athelete, or anyone for that matter, and then have your hero suddenly fall from grace. For that reason, we should watch atheletes perform in their sport, and then leave the upbringing of our kids, and the messages about right and wrong to their parents.
The amount of disdain and discredit for Tiger Woods is amazing. In this country especially, we love to make and break our heroes, then re-make them to take credit for being a forgiving society. Is Tiger Woods that different from alot of people you know, work with, have as neighbors? He cheated on his wife, and she left. Both had choices and they made them. That's all folks. As a matter of fact, he followed his upbringing, his father was known to have cheated and womanized. He curses, throws clubs, and generally gets angry on the course. Well, that pretty much follows along with most other golfers I know. What, because he is on the pro circuit, he should not be who he is? C'mon, let's be real. If you don't like it, tell you kid's that it is better to control your emotions, but that some have more difficulty doing that than others.
Gibert Arenas is another popular conversation topic these days. I hear alot of talk about how these atheletes often come from the roughest neighborhoods, and they had to fight for everything they have. Ok, so did a lot of kids that grow up to be law abiding professionals. Where you grew up, and how you grew up does not define you as an adult. This is the worst argument I ever heard in my life. You think because Gilbert grew up in a tough neighborhood that he needed to bring guns to the locker room to threaten a teammate? No, he brought them because he is spoiled and thinks he is above the law because of his status and money. His suspension cost $7m so far, much more than he lost in a supposed card game. He proved he is an idiot is all. Again, easy to tell my kids, hey, if you bring guns to work you will be either shot, or fired. The fact that he will continue to play in the league needs to be explained to kids that people still will pay someone if their particular skillset is in high demand, and very few in society can provide the skillset. It doesn't make it right, but it is life. That's the imperfect world that we live in.
All thoughout time, the superstar athelete has been revered. Look back at some of the biggest names in sports and you can figure it out. The problem is the parents, not the kids. You think it was easier for our past generation to explain John McEnroe and his outbursts than Tiger and his? How about Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle? How about Wilt Chamberlain? Namath? All known womanizers. Easier to explain? Probably not. Magic, Jordan anyone? Not at all perfect, but ceratinly celebrated! I think we all have to remember to celebrate sporting achievement rather than the athelete.
I have been and will continue to follow the career of Tiger Woods, because of his skill at the game of golf, not his skills as a person, husband or father. I love to watch history, and everytime he steps on a golf course he is carving out history. I am happy to be a spectator in that. That's why I was glued to a Bulls game, an Oilers game, etc. You wait for history. Am I disappointed? No more than I am when I hear about the same thing happening in my own community. I shrug, acknowledge that it happens, and move on with my life comfortable that everyone makes their own decisions and lives with their own consequences.
I have been both fortunate and unfortunate in who I root for in my past. My favorite atheletes of all time are Dan Marino, who was a fiery a competitor as there is. He didn't hide his emotions, and was sometimes criticized for it, but I think it is more accepted in football. My favorite baseball player was Dale Murphy. By all accounts he did it the right way and is generally regarded as an ambassador for the game. Hockey was Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier, and of course who didn't follow Gretzky. Basketball was Dominique Wilkins, no real issues either. But I also followed the careers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire having lived in the Bay Area in the late 80's and 90's. I watched Mike Tyson with great enthusiasm.
Either way, consider yourself lucky if you are able to follow the career of an athelete who exhibits the class and character off of the field to match their performance on the field. There are'nt many Ripkens, Peyton Mannings, Phil Mickelsons, etc to follow. Mostly, you will find flaws, and indiscretions in your favorites. This doesn't make them a bad person, or even a bad influence necessarily. All it does is provide an opportunity to teach and mentor your children in the way you want them to act.