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Sports junkies need a new white knight
Does anyone remember when fans could support an athlete without fear of their idols later facing scandal or criminal arrest? Because I can’t.
Growing up, I idolized Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Tiger Woods. No joke – that’s actually a list of my all-time favorite athletes from my childhood. Heck of a list, isn’t it?
I remember the days when the biggest scandal in baseball was Pete Rose’s gambling, when Lance Armstrong was an inspiration to everyone fighting cancer, and when NBA stars were loyal to their fan base and city.
I also remember the days when people played for the memory of their deceased loved ones, and five months later, those loved ones were still six feet under.
It might sound harsh, but I can’t think of a single professional athlete playing in the U.S. today that every fan can support without a careful background check – since at this point, all the biggest stars have skeletons in their closets.
The story of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis keeps gaining momentum. I have nothing against Ray-Ray, but as great as his final season in the NFL and his team’s post-season journey has been, the man was still indicted on charges of murder and aggravated assault. I wouldn’t want any child idolizing someone with that kind of past.
Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o did an incredible job as ESPN’s poster child since late September, but as more facts emerge regarding the bizarre hoax of the athlete’s fake dead girlfriend, his story took a plunge from inspirational to suspicious.
As a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan, this is difficult for me to say – but if I were a father in the last decade, the only player I’d want my child to idolize is New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter.
Jeter is the ultimate athlete: he stays out of trouble, shows respect to his peers and the media, has played for a single team through his entire career and above all, he has achieved success through perseverance, pure talent and an ability to not get dragged into the world of performance enhancing drugs. Right now, because of his age, he’s just not the person we need. Eight years ago, we didn’t realize just how rare he was.
What happened to the superstars like Cal Ripken Jr., Walter Payton, Billy Jean King and Larry Bird? The U.S. needs more players who are immortalized, not just because of their skills or the records they hold, but by the way they carried themselves – on and off the playing field.
England has David Beckham and Wayne Rooney, Spain has Rafael Nadal and Argentina has Lionel Messi – while America stands empty-handed. At this point, the face of professional sports in this country may as well be President Barack Obama. After all, he does play his fair share of basketball.
Brett Medeiros is a pre-journalism junior. He can be reached at email@example.com.