Why athletes must respect duty of role model status

Matt Watson Roar Rookie

By Matt Watson, Matt Watson is a Roar Rookie

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    “With great power comes great responsibility” – very sage advice given by Uncle Ben to Spiderman.

    Now while our sports stars may not have the ability to shoot webs or scale walls, they have an even greater power – the power to influence the youth of today, arguably the greatest power one can have without being bitten by a radioactive spider.

    However, 2013 has shown us so far that many athletes around the world neglect the duty they have as a role model, as betrayal, disappointment and a total lack of inspiration have swallowed up the glory of sporting achievement.

    Let us take a look at the year so far:

    Lance Armstrong, after providing belief to millions with his heroic tale of victim to victor, shatters hope with a remorseless confession concerning his embellishing use of performance enhancing drugs

    ASADA reveals that Australian sport has, in instances, heeded a few too many lessons from Lance and is potentially riddled with drug use.

    Shane Watson, the vice-captain of the Australian cricket team, as well as Usman Khawaja, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson are all stood down from the third test against India due to failing to care for the team enough to complete the simplest task of handing in their homework on how they could improve after two embarrassing losses.

    And perhaps the biggest disappointment of all: Oscar Pistorius’ arrest on suspicion of murdering his wife.

    Oscar was the epitome of inspiration in sport. He began his life by having both legs amputated below the knee but refused to let that stop him from smashing down doors for less-abled athletes everywhere by succeeding in chasing his dream to race in the Olympics.

    Inspirational, no?

    Well what Oscar did on his legs was inspirational for athletes, kids, those confronted with a disability and many other sections of society.

    However, each bullet fired by his hands has shattered the world of sport, and the ability to inspire children around the world.

    What mother will want their kid to have a murderer as an inspiration, even if he was arguably the greatest Paralympian of all time?

    What kid wants to cycle when he is told he has to turn to drugs to compete on an even playing field, as Lance declared as an attempt to justify his abhorrent actions? What kid is going to have pride in playing for Australia if its current players don’t?

    The year is not even three months old yet but if this is anything to go by this year is looking ominously dark, which is an incredible shame as the vast majority of athletes out there are doing the right thing and setting an excellent example.

    Unfortunately, the cloud created by the careless few mentioned relegates these highlights to the bench, and it is those athletes who need to wake up.

    Whether they like it or not they are crucial role models in society. They can inspire kids to live a healthy life; inspire people to dream that they will win that gold medal or yellow jersey (or even both!).

    They also have the unfortunate power to influence in negative ways, whether it be by firing a gun, taking drugs, drink driving, or whatever stupid behaviour may be the flavour of the day.

    As a result, athletes need to be incredibly responsible about what they do and say, particularly today thanks to the juggernaut of social media making them so accessible.

    So get yourselves into shape athletes, I don’t want to have to hash tag #disappointing again this year.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      March 13th 2013 @ 2:35pm
      peeeko said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

      maybe we should be looking at people other than sportsman as role models?

    • March 13th 2013 @ 11:22pm
      Dublin Dave said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:22pm | ! Report

      For a perspective on this very issue from the other side of the world may I offer my own ponderings which were framed a few years ago in the immediate aftermath of the passing of George Best.

      A panel discussion program on Irish TV at the time featured more than one contributor who tut tutted that George Best, sublimely talented though he had been, was not a good role model for young people. He was after all a hopeless alcoholic, a spendthrift gambler, a tireless philanderer whose football career had peaked before he was 25 and whose decline he himself memorably summed up by saying: “I spent most of my money on fast cars, booze and women. The rest I squandered”.

      But I contend that it was no part of George Best’s mission on this earth to be a role model. Rather, he was a fantasy figure made flesh. Somebody the average person looked to, not in the hope that they could ever emulate his deeds but rather in awe and amazement that one person could be capable of achieving them.

      What, after all, is a role model? Simply, it is someone you look to in the hope that you can replicate some of what makes them great in your daily life.

      Roy Keane, the snarling reclusive and relentlessly successful latter day captain of Manchester United, the club where Best spend his glorious years, was and is a role model. People in all walks of life look at him and say “I can do that!”

      Leave no stone unturned in maximising my talents in pursuit of success? I can do that.
      Demand the highest standards possible from all those around me? I can do that.
      Show indomitable will, never giving up in pursuit of achievement? I can do that.
      Break the legs of anyone who crosses me? I can do that.
      Have no friends at work? I can do that.

      And you don’t have to be a footballer to follow that role.

      Best by contrast, was somebody you looked at and thought “How the bloody hell did he do that? I wish, oh how I wish I could get within an ass’s roar of achieving such magnificence”.

      Coming back after a lengthy suspension and, while not being match-fit scoring six goals in a cup game.
      Dribbling through the entire defence repeatedly and leaving the opposition, in the memorable words of one victim, “suffering from twisted blood”
      Beating Benfica, then one of the truly great teams, more or less on his own in their own stadium while barely out of his teens.
      Starring in a European Cup final when Manchester United became the first English team to win the European Cup.

      Providing endless examples of breathtaking individual skill and derring do, mixed with courage and determination as well. Look at the famous footage of a marvellous individual goal he scored against Chelsea when he ran the length of the pitch and dribbled past several defenders to score Maradonna like and take note of the challenge by Chelsea’s legendary skipper and hard man Ron “Chopper” Harris who did his best to break Best’s leg. Georgie just shrugged it off and kept going.

      And then there were his off-field exploits. Most men would be enchanted to meet in the flesh, as it were, one Miss World. Best “entertained”, as one newspaper euphemistically put it, at least four. Not to mention the scores of lesser beauties or even those not so beautiful whom he, er encountered. Best’s advice for being successful with women was: “Don’t smoke, don’t take drugs and don’t be too particular.”

      Whom do you think the lovely Gina Rinehart, for example, would be more likely to have as a role model? Keane or Best? Even though, given Best’s expressed generosity in such matters, she might have had a chance with him. 🙂

      True, one wouldn’t advise young people to follow Best’s example. He died penniless and largely alone before he was 60 having endured two failed marriages. An alcoholic is a hard person to live with.

      But he appears to have been genuinely loved by those who knew him and played with him, all of whom were aware of his flaws. He was immature, feckless and irresponsible but there does not seem to have been an ounce of malice in him. His worst enemy was himself.

      I’m guessing people will talk about and remember and wonder at George Best in far more reverential terms in years to come than Keane. In an Australian context, and I speak from the ignorance of being on the other side of the world, I’m guessing the corresponding examples may be on the one hand Shane Warne and David Campese and on the other say,surly successful buggers like Alan Border, Steve Waugh or Gregg Chappell.

      Of course, we’ll admire Keane and his ilk. We’ll recognise that they were achievers who propelled their teams to greatness. But that’s not what makes sport different.

      If achievement were everything, we’d all be marvelling at Microsoft or Google. Or Hancock Prospecting.

      Sport is for fantasists.

    • March 15th 2013 @ 3:16pm
      MMADoggzofwar said | March 15th 2013 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

      I’d travel to Dublin to drink a pint with you Dave, well said! “why athletes must respect DUTY of role model status” Really hard to read that without shaking one’s head

    • March 15th 2013 @ 9:07pm
      Dublin Dave said | March 15th 2013 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

      Hey, any time Mad Dog (excuse the abbreviation). Especially if you’re paying 🙂

    • March 16th 2013 @ 3:48am
      Bob Anderson said | March 16th 2013 @ 3:48am | ! Report

      Has Pistorius been convicted of anything? The more I’ve read about the details of this case, the more I believe Pistorius’ story of the events. I am convinced he’s innocent of premeditated murder, and doubt whether it could even be considered manslaughter or negligent homicide. I believe he reasonably thought there was an intruder.

    • March 16th 2013 @ 11:33am
      brad cooper said | March 16th 2013 @ 11:33am | ! Report

      Sporting celebrity is coming into its own about 50 years after pop celebrity started peaking. People were always tut-tutting rockers who misbehaved in the early years, but they eventually grew up and stopped crying, or switched to the Cliff Richard fan club. In a decade or two we’ll get over the sport role model insanity too. It’s a bit of a cop-out for parents to tell their kid that their sporting hero is God. Kids grow up to replicate what happened at home, not on the field.
      However, athletes in low paying gigs like Olympic sports will still have to sow their wild oats behind closed doors because it’ll still be a while before sponsors will risk their product for anything but Victorian values.

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