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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Athletes As Role Models? I Think Not

In a perfect world, we could very well consider the professional athlete as a sufficient model for our children and for society, not only for their talent and strength, but for their carriage, their way of life off of the playing surface. We could fool ourselves that every athlete lives above reproach, and tell ourselves that players like Plaxico Burress, Alexander Ovechkin, Alex Rodriguez and Eric Staal are adequate models for our youth to aspire to. In many ways, this may be true.

But Burress, aside from other troubles on the field, was dumb enough to shoot himself in the leg with a gun he was not licensed in New York to have. Rodriguez is under immense scrutiny for an apparently long history of steroid use dating back to high school. Even NHL players are not above fire; Staal was arrested for a drunk and disorderly rap along with his brother Jordan last year, and Ovechkin has admitted in interviews to driving his sports car at breakneck speeds.

And now, Patrick Kane has been arrested on charges of robbery and assault along with his cousin, after they roughed up a cab driver in his native Buffalo who didn't have $.20 change on him. (story: http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/758903.html ) Sad? Yeah. And it's another reason to wonder just why so many people put their faith in men who can dribble a basketball, catch a football, or shoot a puck.

It's not to say that many of these athletes aren't respectable individuals. A great many of them live clean-cut lives and play for love of the game, and give great examples to little boys (and girls) who want to emulate them. And I think that it's great to want to be the next Jeter or Manning or Crosby, or want to put your hometown on the map, or things of that nature. It's very romantic to want to think you can do that for both yourself and those around you. But it's when these people slip up and make human errors, and unearth a torrent of outrage, that makes you wonder just how much stock we've put into these individuals.

Because guess what? When it really comes down to it, though I would not want to take anything away from athletes who work especially hard to play their respective games, they aren't making any world-altering changes to this world. They're not discovering the cure for cancer, they're not teaching our children anything good parents can't teach, and although doing wonderful things with a puck or a ball that excite anyone who can't do that themselves, I don't see how so many people place their faith in the hands of talented individuals who are still only human. If sports are supposed to be an escape for the rest of us, does that mean we would rather live in a dream world than reality?

Think about that the next time an athlete falls from grace.

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