Thursday, July 26, 2007

Role Models or Anti-Role Models?

Definitely, the sports world seems to be falling apart.

Let's see....the Yahoo Sports Headlines today:

- Michael Vick's (Atlanta Falcons football) dogfighting charges
- NBA match-fixing scandal
- two NHL stars arrested for disorderly conduct
- Michael Rasmussen removed from the Tour de France
- Baseball's steroids scandal
- New York Islanders re-sign Chris Simon, who was suspended for attacking another player

Hmm...I think it's time to find some new role models outside of the sporting world, that's for sure.

On the upside, I was impressed with Tiger Woods' decision to release photos of his new baby (so cute) without "selling" them to the press. And of course, I'm excited about the Chicago Cubs' current winning thing (and the Brewers, I am a Milwaukee girl at heart)...

but I can't really find a lot of role modeling for my own children in the sports world. I see so many kids wearing sports jerseys, t-shirts, hats, and thinking so much about the professional sporting world. In some ways this makes me so sad. There are so many other role models out there that we can introduce our children to. Perhaps it's time to stop idolizing these athletes....

On the other hand, it is possible that these scandals can serve for us another purpose. Maybe these folks (athletes and also actors such as Lindsay Lohan, arrested again with another DUI), provide us with the opportunity to see how NOT to act, provide us with anti-role models for our children. We can point out the wrongs in their behavior as an example to ourselves and our families how not to act. Or, as Julia Keller explained on May 15th in the Chicago Tribune, we can use their inflated salaries to remind us about what's really important:

Fat salaries worth every penny

Everybody reacts to the news of Roger Clemens' new salary the same way: First, there's the head tilt ("Did I hear that right?"). Next, there's the petulant extension of the lower lip ("It isn't fair -- what about all the starving kids in the world?").

If you're not a baseball fan, here's a recap: Clemens, 44, who retires and then returns about as often as most people brush their teeth, signed a contract with the New York Yankees last week. He'll get a reported $28 million for the rest of the season, or about $4.67 million a month, a number that seemed to stun even insanely enraptured baseball fans.

Don't firefighters perform a more important function? How about pre-school teachers?Isn't Clemens' compensation absurd? Or Oprah's? Or Katie Couric's?

There was a time I would've thought so. But not anymore. I've come to believe that we actually need the occasional jolt of a glaring disparity such as this. How else can we remind ourselves that in our hearts, we really do value preschool teachers over pitchers? Or firefighters over first basemen? Yankees owner George Steinbrenner doesn't -- clearly, he believes Clemens is worth the dough, while nuns and nurses aren't -- but we each get to set our own moral compass, even if ours is only theoretical.

C.S. Lewis used to wonder at people who claimed they don't believe in God because of all the evil in the world. His point: If there's no God, then where did we get these abstract concepts of good and evil, anyway? If there were no straight lines, we wouldn't know what to call a crooked one. Crooked compared with what?

We need Clemens' crazy paycheck to remind us of what we really revere. Our outrage is more dazzling than any fastball. Our anger puts us on the side of the angels -- and not just the ones who won the Series back in '02.

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