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"Be Like Mike?"

 

My eleven-year-old son is a huge sports fan. So much so, that if he's not playing with a ball, puck, or racquet, he's watching, listening, reading, eating and breathing it.

 Under normal circumstances sports is a haven for all things wrong in our world: Lying. Cheating. Stealing. Gambling. Fraud. Point shaving. Tax evasion. Performance enhancing drugs. Conspiracy. DUI / DWI. Assault. Murder. Rape. Fathering children out of wedlock and possession of... you fill in the blank.  

Well, my son came home the other day from school talking about role models and sports idols. He was asked in class, "Who is your sports idol?" He thought about it for awhile, but didn't know what to say.

 So he came to me and asked, "Dad, who was your sports idol when you were a kid?"

Well, growing up, I idolized my father. He was kind, caring, charismatic, intelligent, athletic, creative, well liked and made a lot of money.

"No dad," Ian said. "Who was your sports idol growing up?"

I didn't know what to say--- I never had a "sports idol."  I owned sports jersey's of my favorite players like, Roberto Clemente, Dick Butkus, Reggie Jackson, and Julius Erving. I liked many stars like Hank Aaron, Jack Nicklaus, Wilt Chamberlain, Al Kaline and Gordie Howe, but never idolized any one athlete.

My father always told me, "Humans are not machines; they're not infallible; they make mistakes just like every human on earth, makes mistakes.

 If you put all your faith in a man, eventually that man will fail you, and you will be sadly disappointed."

 

Those words, I never forgot.

Then I started to think... My son has quite a collection of sports bobble heads, posters, jerseys and cards; I wonder who his idol is? Who is his role model?

I walked into his room, and there, pasted on the walls were his "guys." All his favorite athletes: Barry Bonds, Wayne Gretzky, Roger Clemens, Tom Brady, Ray Lewis and Michael Jordan. 

Pretty well rounded group, I thought--- My kid's got taste. He arguably picked the best baseball, football, hockey, and basketball stars of their respective sport. Not to mention, they're all first ballot Hall-of-Famers.

Who's your favorite I asked?

"Dad, they're all my favorites, that's why they're on my wall."

Wait a minute. I started to think. Are they the best role models for my kid?

Barry Bonds, baseball's all-time home run king, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice and could go to prison instead of the Hall-of-Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.

When Wayne Gretzky, "The Great One" was head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, he was linked to "Operation Slap Shot," when his wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, along with close friend and top assistant coach, Rick Tocchet and about a half-dozen NHL players was involved in a pro sports gambling ring.

Roger Clemens legacy as one of baseball's greatest pitchers was severely challenged by allegations contained in the Mitchell Report that a strength and conditioning coach injected him with anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) over a three-year period beginning in 1998. The Mitchell Report names him no less than 82 times.

Tom Brady, three-time Super Bowl winner, NFL MVP, two-time Super Bowl MVP and the record holder for most touchdowns thrown in a single season, also fathered ex-girl friend, Bridget Moynahan's child out of wedlock. 

Ray Lewis, two-time NFL Defensive player-of-the-year plead guilty to obstruction of justice after he was indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges when two men who attend his Super Bowl party in January 2000 were killed.

Maybe Barry, Wayne, Roger, Tom and Ray are not the best roles models, but what about Mike?

Okay? "Be Like Mike!"

"Yeah dad, I like Michael Jordan; I'll be like Mike!"

I thought about it for a second...Nope. Michael Jordan wouldn't be the best role model. He was deeply involved in high stakes casino and golf gambling, to the extent that he onetime owed a San Diego businessman $1.25 million in golfing debts--- Not to mention he "retired" under suspicious circumstances at the height of his career to play minor league baseball?

"Well dad, who should I be like?" Ian quizzically asked.

Be your own man, Ian.  Don't Be Like Mike, rather... Play Like Mike... and Barry, Wayne, Roger, Tom and Ray.

To be continued

Copyright 2008 Steve Kay 

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