OK, I admit that I have become jaded and dated in my belief that sports stars should be nowhere near pedestals let alone on them. I give into the notation that itís become part of our society, and admittedly it disturbs me that we continue to participate in a false praise. Very few of the athletes have done anything worthy of giving them praise. In my day ó thatís a line I never thought I would use ó athletes were just people with incredible talent and they were thankful for being paid for that talent. Today, they ask for millions of dollars which, by the way, comes from the fans directly through ticket sales or indirectly through television rights or merchandise sales. To be fair, many of these athletes admit that they donít want to be role models, and then others who want to be shouldnít be. I donít want to mention any names ó Alex Rodriguez.
Athletes get paid to do a job, and regardless of what sport it is that job is always, always the same. They are here to entertain fans. I donít begrudge them for making money doing their jobs, but admit that they are in the entertainment business and nothing else. As much as Dennis Rodman thinks he is a political liaison between North Korea and the United States, heís sometimes former basketball player and occasional non-professional wrestler.
World Champion sports teams get to meet the President of the United States, with some even declining to make a political statement. The guy in the Oval Office makes decisions as to the fate of our country and the guy who makes 100 times more in salary wonít go shake his hand. And who helps to reinforce this type of behavior? Itís the adult fans who want to either relive or live for the first time their youth sports dreams. Last week I watched in amazement as Phil Michelson spent huge chunks of time signing autographs for kids and it was shocking to me as male adults pushed those kids over to get his autograph ó just as much as it shocks me that Tiger Woods has to promote his ďnewĒ fan-friendly behavior.
Weíve reached down now into athletes at the college level with the escapades of Johnny Football and the public arguments with his parents and his alleged acceptance of cash for autographs. When did that start ó paying for someoneís signature? I remember the first autograph I ever got was Brooks Robinsonís and not only did he sign my baseball, but he waited until I had my camera ready to take his picture. I have to wonder whatís next, high school athletes attempting to get scholarships to the best private high schools instead of a public school.
You want to praise a guy who wears a uniform? Praise the ones who wear the camouflage in countries far and wide, the deserts of Iraq and the military bases all over the world. Want to put someone up on the pedestal that our children can look up to? Put the firefighters who were killed in Arizona trying to save peopleís homes. Want to stop explaining to your kids why an athlete must be suspended? Tell them about the heroes of the revolutionary war or any other war where our freedom was threatened.
Tired of explaining to your kids why Twitter is blowing up over an athleteís actions, drug use or spousal abuse? Make them take a break from Twitter and Facebook and read a book or newspaper.
Greg Kamp is a 23-year veteran of youth sports as a coach and administrator and is currently the President of Penfield Little League and sits on the board at the District level. He is the host of Youth Sports Now, a weekly radio show on WYSL-AM/FM and also runs Strategy First, his own public relations and marketing business.