Wanted: Athletic role models

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    by Darren Wilcox

    Wanted: athletes willing to be role models for the young and old alike. Applications can be turned-in to David Stern, Bud Selig or Rondo Fehlberg for starters.

    Skyrocketing salaries seem to have taken the athletes’ egos along for a ride. Sure, having an athlete arrested or charged with a crime does help to fill the sports page, but it gives the impression that certain behavior is OK.

    When I was young I loved baseball. Darrell Porter was the catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and he was my hero. Whenever we played whiffle ball, I was Darrell Porter. I’m right-handed, but I batted left-handed just like Darrell. I had his batting stance down pat. For me, he was more than a baseball player, he was my hero.

    As I grew up, I learned more about Darrell Porter’s life away from baseball. He had battled a drinking problem early in his career and survived. He had realized his problem was serious and corrected it. He was a good role model.

    Porter never made $5 million in a season. I don’t believe he ever dreamed of the money players make today.

    He retired in 1987.

    I am amazed at the attitudes of players who are receiving millions of dollars to simply play games. Of course, when you take an 18-year-old and hand him more money than he has ever seen in his life, you are asking for trouble.

    The NBA has become a nursery for these spoiled brats. Who knows if Allen Iverson will be one of the greatest players to play basketball or serve time in jail? Jermaine O’Neal, another rookie, may spend more time on the highway picking up trash than on the court talking it.

    Then you have the whiners, those NBA “stars” who feel they are better than the huge salary they are receiving. Dennis Scott has threatened to miss training camp because of a dispute with Orlando Magic officials. Kevin Garnett turned down a contract extension that would have paid him $17 million per year because at 20 he feels he is worth more.

    Major League Baseball is no different. Albert Belle has tried to shed his bad-boy image this season, but the Chicago White Sox slugger was still paid $10 million to bat .271 and lead the Sox to a mediocre season. In case you’re keeping track, Belle made more this season than the entire starting line-up of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    You could argue that people shouldn’t use sports figures as role models because they are not perfect. After all, it’s only a game. Why should they get any more respect than anyone else?

    It’s simple. Athletes do things we of the general public only dream of doing. Anyone who watches sports does so because they secretly wish they could be on the field. We live vicariously through our athletes. That is why we tend to worship them and that is why we tend to mimic their actions.

    I believe this problem trickles down through society. Look at the current crop of college athletes who are involved in drugs or other illegal acts. Even here at BYU we have athletes suspended for Honor Code violations, athletes forcing out their coach and other examples of spoiled or selfish behavior.

    We need someone to step up. The world needs more athletes like Grant Hill and Tim Duncan. How about a project to clone Cal Ripken Jr. and Steve Young? These athletes are examples to us because they accomplish spectacular feats and stay out of trouble.

    Athletes, get those applications ready. It’s time to grow up and face the future.

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