It seems to get clearer all the time that athletes aren’t necessarily the best role models.
On Thursday Oscar Pistorius, a South African runner who gained fame during the London Olympics this past summer for competing despite being a double amputee, was charged with the murder of his girlfriend. He had an inspiring story of overcoming incredible odds to compete against the world’s best athletes but now always will be remember for what happened at his home on Valentine’s Day.
We shouldn’t condemn Pistorius yet as he has not received due process. While he’s been charged, it’s important to remember he hasn’t been convicted of anything.
But Pistorius is just the latest in a line of athletes who have fallen from grace.
Lance Armstrong admitted this month to doping to win the Tour de France. He went from a hero who inspired millions for overcoming cancer to win one of the world’s toughest sporting events to just another cheater.
He followed a path similar to one seen often in baseball recently as players such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez all have been caught using performance enhancing drugs, taking them from highly-regarded superstars to villains. Based on their numbers, they all should be hall of famers, but each faces a steep uphill battle because of their transgressions.
There are NFL players such as Michael Vick, who was found to be running an illegal dog fighting ring, and O.J. Simpson, who was involved in one of our nation’s most high-profile murder cases and now is serving time for armed robbery and kidnapping.
The examples of athletes falling from grace include NBA star Kobe Bryant and golf legend Tiger Woods being caught having affairs.
We could go on and on with stories of athletes behaving badly. And by no means are the examples limited to sports. Politicians, musicians, actors and basically every other group of people you could possibly think of have scores of people who have proven to be less-than-ideal role models.
Many people look up to athletes, but ultimately there often are much better people to look to as examples.
Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors, teachers … there are so many people much closer to home who can be great role models.
While you can never be 100 percent sure that someone you look up to will never mess up, you have better opportunities to get to know those around you and determine who truly is someone you want to emulate.
Kyle Shaner is the sports editor for The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.