Sports Role Models And Other Lies

Chicago Bears Brandon Marshall Addresses The Media After Accusations Of Domestic Violence In His Past

Robert Zeglinski, September 22nd, 2014

If you really think about it simply, pro sports are just games with people moving a ball better across a surface better than the other group of people.

These are grown men and women putting themselves into peak physical condition to bounce around a ball, swing a stick, take body shots from pucks etc. etc. all for our entertainment and gain.

So why do we as a society put so much spotlight on professional athletes as role models and examples of our society? Why is it more important that a man who runs with a ball on field on national television be an exemplary citizen than anyone else?

Spoiler alert: Athletes are not role models, they are the “gladiators of the modern era” (cliche but relevant).

We pay money for jerseys. We follow them on social media, hanging on all of their words as if they were world leaders. We attend these games and events to watch grown men dunk a ball, and or play very physically detrimental games. We get a rush out of these thrilling comebacks and championship games year after year (it’s why were sports fans), but why then do we expect these guys to be the leaders and models of upstanding righteous citizens in our world?

In the wake of all firestorm controversy surrounding the league recently, I’ve wondered why media outlets and fans have blown up these issues over the questionable decision making of people who get payed to play games. I’ve heard, “what will my son learn watching this man play” and “how can the NFL let this continue” blah, blah, blah, blah.

We look up to these guys to be respectable model citizens rather than the teachers, doctors, the people that keep this world’s infrastructure sound in changing the life of our youth positively as well as keeping people healthy. Just because they are on ESPN or NFL Network or CBS, doesn’t mean their trivial impact means more than someone who actually makes a difference.

This isn’t to minimize these serious issues like domestic violence in the US and around the world. It’s troubling that we still continue to see domestic abuse indeed, but why blow up professional issues in sports like a tabloid instead of focusing on this problem as a society?

Statistically the domestic violence issues the NFL sees on a year to year basis is on level with what the US sees annually as well. That shines a light on an even greater issue.

To me it just seems, we tend to make excuses as a greater population. We don’t understand how to properly raise our kids and understand our own ideals as adult people, so we hypocritically criticize men who have no impact on our life other than carrying the mantel of being the media appointed poster boys of societal issues.

It’s purely generalization, but I just don’t understand it. These are people who have come from far lesser walks of life before reaching stardom on national levels (sometimes worldwide levels). When I say lesser, I mean coming from abusive households and upbringings, gang affiliated issues, and any other of a number of societal issues we cannot control. Then we expect them to change and be mistake free once they hit the big stage with unspeakable amounts of money, like it’s their white knight responsibility to carry the “shield” or be the model America needs?

Instead of helping them, we shun them. We push them away and don’t let them understand their mistakes as if they aren’t allowed any breathing room.

Again I just don’t get it. Were the ones who put these men on pedestals and let them feel the power like they’re gods. We completely over sensationalize their career accomplishments like a passing record, or home run record and immediately tie an emotional investment to them as if they are our close friend of years. Then as soon as they screw up, they’re “supposed to know better” and these entertainment leagues like the NBA or NFL are supposed to clean up the mess as the moral arbiters of our country?

I hate to break it to anybody, but these leagues are out to make money and promote their own brand like any business. Yes they will have issues with their PR, but it baffles to think about why they need to be the police of our society. Why don’t we deal with these issues ourselves? Is it because when we see athletes like Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson go through these patterns, it forces us to deal with uncomfortable issues we don’t have enough conversation about?

Just food for thought. Understand why you are outraged and don’t let the over saturated  media form your opinion.

Even with positive publicity from athletes like Bears receiver Brandon Marshall or Saints quarterback Drew Brees, why does it matter that they are involved in our communities, organizations, and charities? Yes they are representing their teams brands to ultimately make money, but that’s the only purpose it serves. If they didn’t play for these well known teams, it wouldn’t matter to us about the difference they are making.

A regular average joe who is active in the community and helps his fellow man wouldn’t get the light of day on the public platform. It’s the platform we take too far.

It makes me happy to see how great of a person someone like Brandon Marshall has clearly transformed into but I don’t have any outlandish expectations about Marshall as a person other than filling my narrative of catching touchdowns and winning Super Bowls. It’s only fair to guys like him and it’s just the truth.

Fans like us who love these games, craft our own narrative models of what these people who play with balls for a living should do. That these pro athletes are supposed to care as much about us and championships along with our world as a whole. Yet we selfishly fail to account for what these people yes people want in their own lives. We don’t understand or even care to see where they came from and accept their mistakes as human beings. They are supposed to be perfect robots built to play sports and if there’s any leakage, let’s throw a fit. How about we look in the mirror for once? How about we understand our own personal and community issues before we leap onto these people who meant nothing to us before they played for our favorite team? The outrage and positive reinforcement we’ve seen recently is hollow and anything but dense.

Charles Barkley, former NBA great and Hall of Famer, once famously emphasized in an ad campaign, “I am not a role model”. It’s a lesson people in this country forgot about from the early 90’s. Yes just because he dunks a basketball, doesn’t mean he should raise your kids.

Athletes are not role models. They catch footballs, score goals for a living and that’s what’s excited the sports world for years. Why expect more now?

Because it’s never enough.

(Photo Credit: NESN)

-Robert Zeglinski

Robert Zeglinski is an aspiring sportswriter who absolutely loves all the nitty gritty that comes with pro sports. He is currently attending Aurora University in Illinois. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigZags82 or reach him through email (robertpoduski@gmail.com) for questions or feedback. 


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