For as long as any of us can remember, we’ve had a way of vaunting athletes as nearly superhuman. They’re propelled into the stratosphere of legend and many are held up as role models for kids and the rest of us mere mortals.
But should they be?
I am not knocking professional athletes. They have sacrificed and pushed their bodies further than most would dream. They give us inspiration and entertainment, but should they be role models? Should they be the type of people that we look up to out of respect and provide us guidance? Honestly, no, they should not. Respected for their ridiculous amount of talent and emulated on the field of play, yes; but someone for our youth to strive to act-like and be-like, HELL NO.
Let me first say that I am in no way talking shit about professional athletes. I love them, they give me hope, they drive me crazy, and provide hours of entertainment. I am merely saying that a majority of them are still young men in their 20s. They have not lived life yet. They have experienced a fraction of what life has to offer. So while on the field they deserve to be put on a pedestal, yet off it, we should treat them like everyone else. Why are you going to crucify them for going to the club and being dumb? Should they not be able to live their life like everyone else? Because they are famous and get paid millions of dollars does that not give them the right just be young and do dumb fucking shit.
Most of life’s hardest lessons are learned through experience. If you expect these kids to just inherently know all of these things, you’re a bigger dumbass than most. Now do not confuse what I am saying with giving them free reign to break the law and wreck shit. I am just saying let these guys be guys, make their own mistakes and live their own lives.
On a side note, when another NFL or NBA player gets a DUI, that is a different story. This is the single most moronic move ANY athlete can make. EVERY LEAGUE HAS A CAR SERVICE!!! They will pick you up no matter where you are and take you where ever you need to go, no questions asked. If you don’t want that, then hire a fucking driver. Or pay one of your boys to stay sober, and then make sure the keys to your car never leave his hand. Honestly, how many of your boys are going to turn that down? “Here are the keys to my hundred thousand dollar Range, let’s go to the club, scope up my fall out pussy, and then you can drive all of us home. Oh and I will throw you a ‘g’ for the night.”
I believe that most of these guys are just kids themselves. They have surrounded themselves with the wrong people most of the time and make dumb mistakes. They are not bad people, just young. That is why we should allow them to learn and not crucify them for their actions. Let’s face the facts, we should not even be looking up to these people in the first place and placing these types of expectations on them. They do not deserve it. Enjoy them for what they are and let them be who they are going to be. Not role models. Is it because there is such a shortage of quality role models out there that we force young men to be something they are not?
Realistically, who should America’s youth look up to? Everywhere you look there is corruption and scandal. Maybe you can blame it on the media and their constant need for something new to report, but there is a shortage of legitimate candidates. It is possible that today’s media would have taken down even some of histories greatest. Kennedy’s possible infidelity might be brought to light; Arnold Palmer’s off the course behavior probably would have rivaled Tigers, who knows what else would have come out. Maybe it is the curse of our generation that we are devoid of truly pure and infallible role models.
As soon as someone gets fame or recognition, we will only tear them back down.
But let’s not expect culturally significant moments from our athletes, unless it occurs on the field. Ali is not walking through that door. Today’s athlete is coached, expected, and required to toe the company line. Do not rock the boat, do what you are told, stay in line, and do not get in trouble. Yet when they barely stray off this tightrope, we eviscerate them in the media. Completely unfair, but it happens.
Then there’s Mario Balotelli. Who has basically said: “Fuck you. I am going to be me and do what I want. Say what you will about me – I am a bad, bad, bad man and I am going to do whatever I feel like doing. Take a tour of the slums with a noted mob boss. Set my house on fire with fireworks. Throw lawn darts at reserve team players. Park my car where ever the hell I want. Party in St. Tropez, shirtless, smoking hookahs, and getting massages from scandalously clad blonde bombshells. That’s just me being me.”
Is he a role model? Should he ever be mentioned in the same sentence with a role model? Of course not, but he is doing what every normal 21 year old would do if he was making two hundred thousand a week (albeit a bit extreme).
Yet, despite all of this there is part of him that actually stands for something. He is one of the first black Italians to be successful. Born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants and adopted by a Jewish Italian family, he is still taunted by racial insults to this day. Italians who cheer his success are the same ones that depict him climbing Big Ben like King Kong. Several times this season bananas were hurled at him on the pitch. Yet, despite ALL of this, he still remains loyal to Italy. So while most call him a head case, a fuck up, or just a troubled young man; I see a fiercely passionate individual whose youth and inexperience gets the better of him. He is not afraid to take that abuse and keep going. So yeah, he is going to make an ass of himself more often than not. But that same confidence, arrogance, and passion have made him a talisman for immigrants all over Europe. Hopefully he can be a lightening rod to bring more attention to the racism in football and in Italian culture. He will do that just by being Mario and nothing more.
Am I saying that more athletes should be like Mario? No. I simply want us to be more accepting of athletes for who they are. Let them be who they are going to be, let them make mistakes, let them live, and do not berate them when they do not do the right thing. They are not role models, they are just like us. Only in much, much, much, much better shape.