As a big Sports Fan, I follow certain athletes, have my favorites and am amazed at their talents. As an adult, I know they are not perfect and make mistakes like all the rest of us.
But to children, they are “Heroes”; someone they strive to be when they grow up. You can’t pass by a park without witnessing a child playing catch with their father, a pick-up game of basketball with their favorite players name on the back of a jersey or transfixed when they get to see them play up close and personal.
They are innocent and put athletes on a pedestal. They collect all their jerseys, baseball card and have their posters hanging on their bedroom walls. They do not hear and understand when they hear an adult say “Not again” when another athlete gets arrested for drugs, getting arrested for hiding a concealed handgun or killing their girlfriend. Adults just see it as another spoiled athlete thinking they can break the rules. But children go on innocently still wanting to be them when they grow up.
Not all athletes are like that. Most are great people, who do a lot for their families, communities and people in need. They also reach out to those in times or hardship and feel the emotion when pain and tragedy strikes as well.
One of those athletes, Victor Cruz of The New York Giants, found out he was the favorite player of one of the six-year-old victims in the Sandy Hook Tragedy. This little boy was buried in his jersey, an emotion this athlete felt to his core. He graciously wrote the boy’s name on his cleats and called and visited the boy’s family. Even spent time with the other neighborhood kids who gathered knowing he was there.
There were many stories like this going across all leagues in the sporting community. And it started a conversation with my mother and I. Brought up a quote by Basketball Legend Charles Barkley who said “I am not a Role Model.” In reality, they are not. They are human and make mistakes like any other. But to children, they are idols. And it just comes with the package of being a famous athlete.
It might not be a role they wanted or feel they need to live up to. But whether they like it or not, they are “heroes” to young children and need to conduct themselves as such. They need to conduct themselves in their private lives in a light they would want their own children to conduct their lives. These kids copy your clothing, buy your sneakers, ape your moves on the playing field and beg their parents for tickets so they can watch you courtside. Whether you like it or not, they want to be you.
To me heroes or role models, are the teacher, first responders, parents…..there are so many people I would want my children to look up to besides athletes.
But most young children don’t realize that until they get older. For now, in their youth, you are the ones they want to be.
So I hope they take that responsiblity seriously, and it doesn’t just take a tragedy like this to remind all athletes of the impact you have on our youth of today.