Sports role models come and go. You have your great athletes that usually overcome great odds and they become role models. In most cases this is true, but the line does get blurred quite often.
We talked about Pete Rose for example. Can a guy like Pete still be a role model?
Pete Rose fans just say Pete deserves to be honored for what he did on the field, not what he did off the field. The Cincinnati Reds just elected Rose to their team Hall of Fame. There are many though that still cannot get past his gambling.
Then there are the football players. The NFL has had a big marketing problem lately selling their brand name with all their bad boys.
In 2014 Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings didn’t win parent of the year. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault on what the league called “an incident of abusive discipline” toward his 4-year-old son.
He was reinstated in 2015 and had a great year of rushing with 1,485 yards. He seems to be forgiven for his bad parenting and the Viking fans are back to worshiping him, but is he a role model?
And of course the NFL laundry list is long. There was the Ray Rice hitting video, the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assaults, the Ray McDonald domestic abuse and the conviction of Aaron Hernandez for murder. And we can’t forget Tom Brady is a cheater for his deflating of footballs.
In other sports, there was Lance Armstrong, who at 25 came down with cancer. He only had a 40 percent chance of survival. He had the cancer removed and went into chemo and to work out he did the Tour de France. He then won the Tour de France seven times but it was found out he cheated and was stripped of his wins. Despite his humiliation some still proclaim Armstrong overcame a lot of diversity and should not just be remembered as a cheater, but is he still a role model? Most people who still believe this do so because Armstrong overcame his cancer and did so much for cancer victims.
I think even if an athlete has hit rock bottom but then does something to redeem himself, he is still worthy of role model status. Darryl Strawberry, a baseball player who was given too many chances and never kicked the habit, could have been a comeback story but couldn’t get past the drugs.
In general, the fans like a happy ending. There are countless stories of athletes that make the big comeback. I think those athletes that go through rehab and kick the habit should be welcomed back with open arms. We as a society want to see those who successfully beat a bad habit. Nowadays I think our kids need to see that. They need to know that a person can hit rock bottom and come back from that.
Locally we have our own MMA fighter, Brandon Schneider, who was addicted to drugs and came back from it more than once. He has a great message for kids. Don’t get mixed up with it. On top of that, he has not let all the fame go to his head. He is very humble and approachable. The kids love the guy. He deserved the second chance.
I think how you treat the fans is big. After all you’re seeking forgiveness from the fans, so you should at least treat them right.
In 1995, Las Vegas’s own Andre Agassi ranked number one in the world, but a tumultuous relationship with Brooke Shields and a nagging wrist injury sent him down the drug path. He took up snorting crystal meth. His world ranking plummeted a stunning 140 notches.
But Agassi came back from that. He was forgiven.
Should we as a society be more forgiving? Yes. I mean after all, athletes are human.
I think as a society we are, as long as the person coming back shows us he has changed and is now a quality person. Having a heart matters.
-Contact sports editor Vern Hee at email@example.com