Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Heroes with Clay Feet

It seems throughout recent history there has been one class of hero that children fix on as role models: the sports hero. Many a young man would dream of being the "the Bambino," "the Sultan of Swat," as Babe Ruth blasted baseballs into the upper deck on his way to create long-standing records. Girls aspired to be "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias, as she won Olympic gold and starred in multiple sports. Sports figures of the past often gave children an opportunity to aspire to develop talent through hard work and fair play, so they could be like their hero. Down through the years sports celebrities seemed to make an effort to lead a life worthy of imitation, as they practiced hard, trained hard and played hard.

But sometimes our heroes have feet of clay (gambling, moral failure, steroid use, dog fighting, etc.) which point out the danger of elevating a flawed person to the level of a human role model.

I was encouraged this year, however, by the Baseball Writers Association of America refusing to induct a single player into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. For me it was a noteworthy signal to young people that there are those who value training, talent and honesty, over those who would bend the rules to their advantage. I believe it's the right message to send in today's culture -- in any culture, for that matter.

I also believe these kinds of values have to start at home.


Well, because I have been that obnoxious parent in the stands berating the ump for a call he made at my child's Little League game. I have been that dad everyone looked at as he commented on the referee's call at the Pee Wee football game. I have also been the dad who rewarded wins over honest effort.

And ... I was also the dad who was wrong.

I would have served my child better to concentrate on the training, hard work and mastering of the fundamentals that are necessary to good gamesmanship than to reward him for winning on a blown call.

At all times (and especially with my kids), I must be the person who sets the example in conduct, attitude, fairness and forgiveness, remembering there's not a sports hero alive -- or dead -- who has more influence on my children than I do.

No comments :