The statue of former Penn St football coach Joe Paterno was removed in the wake his actions, or inactions, surrounding a child molestation scandal. This followed his name being removed from a building at Nike headquarters and a college football conference championship trophy. This is not a referendum on Penn State or its former coach, but on the way we have taken to athletes as role-models based solely on their accomplishments on a field of play.
Once upon a time, we reserved naming buildings and erecting monuments for the upper echelon of leaders, heroes, and role-models. I live in the Philadelphia area, and local schools are named for past presidents such as Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy. You can drive your car down JFK Boulevard and MLK Drive. Ben Franklin *had as many inventions as places which adorn his name, including schools, streets, a science institute, and shopping mall.
Two of the most famous statues in Philadelphia are of inanimate objects, including the word LOVE. The largest statue is of William Penn. His 27 ton likeness sits atop City Hall in recognition of his involvement in planning and developing the city. Probably the most famous statue is of Rocky Balboa. Rocky was a movie prop and donated to the city after the release of Rocky III. The statue has come to symbolize the Philly blue-collar attitude of determination, perseverance, and going after your goals.
Sports are entertainment. They are not a way of life, but a short diversion from it. A game is a three hour mental vacation from the real issues that face us each day. It is a time to bond with friends, and a link between fathers and sons. Your favorite sport is not a religion. If you think it is, I remind you the Peoples Temple was a religion too. If you don’t get that reference, may I suggest you Google something other than the new BCS playoff format.
Now before you think this post is coming from some elitist snob, let me set the record straight. I love watching sports; especially the local teams. I enjoy the excitement of being at the field or arena, especially playoff time. But I know it’s just a game. Regardless of a Phillies win or loss, I still have to go to work the next day and pay bills. Ryan Howard’s salary averages over $140K a game, and he gets that whether he hits a homerun every at bat or strikes out. As Sonny told “C” in the movie A Bronx Tale: “Go ask Mickey Mantel to pay your rent, and see what he says. He doesn’t care about you, why should you care about him?”
People need role-models to look up to and emulate. Real role-models have a passion and ability to succeed and inspire others to succeed as well. They have a clear set of values, act with integrity, and generally care about others. Their time to inspire starts the moment they wake up in the morning, not at a 1:00 kick-off.
In addition to choosing better role-models, we should also return to honoring the real heroes of our country. Each year, men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice defending our liberties we take for granted as Americans. We should find a better way to honor their commitment with something other than a hot dog and beer during a three-day weekend in May. In the weeks and months that followed September 11, 2011, we recognized the contributions of our police force and firemen across the country. Real heroes try to get into a burning building while everyone else is trying to get out.
My dad was a member of our “greatest generation.” WWII veterans upheld democracy by defeating the evil Axis Alliance. Those brave men returned home as heroes to ticker-tape parades, and history books had new leaders named Eisenhower, Patton, and MacArther. When my dad returned home from the war he started a business, got married, and raised a family. He worked hard until he retired at 65. He accomplished this all without using performance-enhancement drugs, running a dogfighting ring, evading taxes, or running over police.
Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley created controversy in his playing days by saying athletes shouldn’t be role-models. “A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail” he said, “should they be role models?" Eli Manning may be able to hit a moving target with a football from 50 yards away, but you’re not going to call him when your house is on fire. While Jordan performed magic with a basketball and pair of high-tops, that’s nothing compared to what Jesus could do with a few loaves of bread and a pair of fish.
Joe Paterno was enshrined in the NCAA record book for winning 409 college football games and 24 bowl games, both records at the time (prior to NCAA sanctions). John Sheppard, a 75 year old from Ft Myers, Florida, is enshrined in the Guinness Book of World Records for donating 315 pints of blood. Enough to help save almost 1,000 lives. Now that’s worthy of a statue.
Posted by Michael Patterson. Posted In : Personal