When I asked my freshman English class students who they admired most, they said themselves. This should come as no surprise from the Millennial Generation but still, folks my age wonder. When pressed isn’t there anyone they look up to? My students confessed, “No we don’t have heroes.”
Is it no wonder? Sports icons fall short. The most reputable coach in football, the late Papa Joe Patterno fell off his pedestal when he covered up pedophilia at Penn State, tarnishing his record.
Lance Armstrong was stripped of 7 Tour de France medals for performance enhancing drug usage. Apparently, he did not defy odds as a human miracle beating cancer then rising to top of his game again.
Tiger Woods, following in the footsteps of political icons like Bill Clinton, French DSK, Italian Berlusconi, cheated on his wife, and then lied about it under oath. Classy.
American athletes are not the only ones disappointing the public. Around the globe, similar headlines make the front page. In a traditionally clean sport, French handball stars were charged with game fixing. Every time a European soccer idol breaks a record, another one makes the headlines for spouse abuse, drugs, or gambling. South African hero, Paralympics’ poster child, Oscar Pistorius was accused of murdering his girlfriend model, Reeva Steenkamp.
Politicians? Un huh, the very nature of the job makes their integrity questionable.
Surprisingly, you don’t hear about women cheating in relationships, business deals, or sports. You still just don’t hear much about women. Period. Especially athletic women. Title IX did not stipulate equal media coverage, which is still lacking, only 8% of media coverage is about women. Are athletic women yet to capture media eye? Or maybe women are less likely to make the same poor decisions?
Unfortunately, the media does find female athletes newsworthy when scandal arrives. Former WNBA star, Chamique Holdsclaw, one of the best female basketball players of all time, was arrested in a domestic dispute. In a rags to riches tale, this ghetto girl made it big at Tennessee winning 3 consecutive titles. She was the first female athlete recruited to go professional while still in college because the opportunity was available. Now her life accomplishments will be tarnished by scandal after she assaulted her ex girlfriend Jennifer Lacy, Tulsa Shock player.
Bad press for the WNBA, which gets only limited print. The articles never mentioned Chamique’s underlying psychological issues – depression and attempted suicide in 2006 – revealed in her autobiography. For all her accolades on the hardwood, as a gay, black, inner-city female basketball player the cards were stacked against her. What I am wondering is why only scandal makes the headlines?
Like Suzi Favor Hamilton, the world class run runner from Wisconsin, a wife and mom, who doubled as a high flying call girl. She made “breaking news” which by the way, ran in Swiss newspapers with full-page photo layout, no less.
So who can we admire?
Famous people are under suspicion, as if fame itself corrupts or perhaps the money behind it. Maybe our children should ignore the big names, and instead emulate everyday role models.
A favorite educator, a respected coach, a kind neighbor. Little people tackle the mundane jobs of keeping kids on track without 6 digit salaries, 5 car garages, million dollar shoe endorsements, thousand dollar speaking appearances and Oprah interviews.
Hear! Hear! For the teachers, coaches, moms, dads, grandmas.
How about featuring one of those stars the headlines? What do you think?