(Originally Posted: 08/27/97)
On September 2, ESPN will run a show called “Outside the Lines.” The show has tackled some very difficult topics in the past that few others are willing to. However, this upcoming one promises to be very hard-hitting. It deals with the rash of coaches and players on both the collegiate and pro level who are in trouble with the law.
Which leads to some very troubling questions. Previously, I’ve written about the discord within our society between those who work to better themselves and those who do very little. It is interesting, and quite disturbing, to watch as selected members of our society are singled out by cultural predators and mutilated (not killed), seemingly almost for fun. At the same time, we watch at others are treated with a respect and deference that, in times past, was reserved for statesmen and dignitaries.
Consider, for example, that today, there are those who look upon sports stars (as I call them, “the specials”) with nothing less than fawning adoration. Granted, there are a number of their rank who are quite good at what they do and should be recognized for their effort. However, one has to wonder why these individuals, with such vast salaries and such markedly different lifestyles from the “common man,” are not attacked with the same venom and hatred that the cultural predators use toward the “rich.” (The “rich” in this context can best be defined as “anyone who has something you do not.”)
For reasons unclear, the specials have had reserved unto them, the adoration of the “less fortunate.” The specials are to be looked upon as having “fought” for what they have. They have struggled to become what they are today and they are to be praised. In the same breath, we are expected to damn the accursed millionaires of Wall Street and Corporate America; we are to look upon those in our community who have more than we do with fear, loathing, and rancor. The empires of the “rich” are to be crushed, their wealth redistributed to the “less fortunate.” Yet, God forbid, if we should ever make the same epitaphs toward the specials. Sports stars are to be lauded, we are told. They have worked so hard to get where they are.
Where are they? Right now, there are several on the pro level who are facing some type of criminal proceeding.
- Here in New York we have two baseball players involved with the law, one for rape, one for child abuse.
- In Baltimore, there’s a football player who has violated the league’s substance abuse policy. This violation also violates his parole in Texas, a violation that could land him in the slammer for ten years.
- There’s another football player who was just fined $50K for fighting with another teammate.
- We have a boxer who bites instead of fights.
On the so-called amateur level (college), we have others who are also in legal entanglements.
- Several have been indicted on drug offences.
- Others have been caught carrying concealed weapons.
- A few have been charged with aggravated battery, and assault on girlfriends and teammates.
- In one case, nine starting players on one college football team have been in some type of legal difficulty this summer alone.
Great role models for our children and ourselves.
Legitimately, there are those athletes who have been wrongly and falsely accused in extortion attempts. But even within that is the more sinister element of wealth redistribution, even though it is plied in an underhanded manner. At the same time, I would argue that, as a society, we cannot continue to offer such role models to ourselves and our children for several reasons. The most glaring is that their amassed wealth comes from physical prowess in a selected venue. It does not come from their intellectual ability, from any degree conferred upon them. At this time, in fact, we are seeing an increasing number of college stars leave before they have graduated from school. Granted, they are leaving “for the money.” But then we must wonder, why are they being so highly to dunk a basketball, catch a football, or tackle somebody? What about the person who stays in school to learn in a field of study? Why are they forced to struggle to earn their millions? (A question to my friends on the Left: Isn’t this a form of inequality?)
Another argument against holding such individuals up as role models is that they do not have a depth of character that is shown on a daily basis. Regardless for how many keynote speeches are given, the reality remains that they have been invited because they have a name, not because they are respected in a field of study.
This is not to say that those on Wall Street and in Corporate America walk the straight and narrow either. There are the drug users with white collars, the alcoholics, the wife beaters, and other miscreants that inhabit the business world as well. However, they are not so well known.
Where are our role models then? Perhaps the time has come to pass when we must look at each other as role models. Yes, I believe the time is at hand when we have to begin once more to look at our neighbors, those with whom we work, and those who we call friends. That means, though, that we will have to stop worshiping the money and the people who make it. It means that we will have to begin to work with each other and recognize that we are human with all of our human failings. It means that we will have to recognize that money, and those who make more of it than we do, is not what we should be worshiping. It means we will have to determine what characteristics we deem to be most important in a person. It means discernment of ourselves.
Are you able to do this?