In light of the recent Lance Armstrong allegations, I want to take a look at how modern day sports “heroes” have perpetuated a lying, cheating, win-at-all-costs culture.
As former NFL coach and ESPN analyst Herm Edwards has been known to say, “You play to win the game.”
This idea, however, has been taken to a level that has never been seen before in sports.
Yes, scandal and sport have always gone hand in hand: The Black Sox Scandal, Pete Rose, O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant, Floyd Landis, Tiger Woods, an entire era of Major League Baseball Players, and now, Lance Armstrong. These are some of the biggest names in sports history! These athletes are supposed to be our role models.
Whether you call it a blessing or a curse, professional athletes are put on a pedestal. For many, they are regarded as superhuman, almost God-like beings. When they succeed, it is expected and applauded, but if and when they fail, they are scrutinized to no end.
Maybe these athletes didn’t choose their profession to be role models. Isn’t it possible that they simply did what made them happy and did everything they could to win? Why do these athletes have to be role models? Has society placed too much pressure on how they act off the field?
No! That’s bull. These guys signed up to be role models when they signed multi-million dollar contracts not only to play their sport, but also to be the face of sports, in ads, billboards, etc.
In their contracts they pledged to perform for their team, their family, their friends, and their fans. Whether they like it or not, they are role models when they have little kids asking for a jersey with their name on the back for Christmas, or when they have people wearing a wrist band that is supposed to symbolize hope. If you can’t live up to that, don’t be the face of your sport. Don’t be a fraud!
The real problem, however, starts with parenting. Now, more than ever, you have parents pushing kids to such extremes, especially regarding sports. Parents are even getting into fights at peewee hockey games. It’s ridiculous.
How about this for parenting: In 2001, Danny Almonte, a 5-foot-8 phenom pitcher, originally from Cuba, led the Bronx to a third-place finish in the Little League World Series. He pitched the first perfect game in a Little League World Series since ’57, and throughout the tournament, he struck out 62 of the 72 batters he faced. For those of you who don’t know baseball – that’s absurd.
Dominant doesn’t even begin to describe this kid. However, a few weeks later, it came out that he was more than two years too old to play Little League. Now, do you think the 14-year old kid made this choice, or was that his father’s decision? I would put a lot of money on the latter. This problem is engrained in our society, but it begins at the roots with parenting. If we want to change the athletes of the future, we must demand that parents provide their children with a higher moral standard now.