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Don’t look to them as role models

Back in the ’90s, former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley made the unforgettable statement in Nike commercials “I’m not a role model.”
The controversial Barkley who never deflected criticism was calling out parents and teachers who allowed stars like Barkley to be the only role models for their children.

In reality, whether he liked it or not guys like Barkley were role models. They were talented, hard-working athletes who children, especially those in the inner city, often without a father figure, looked up to. Part of Barkley’s point was that athletes aren’t always the best people for children to look up to.

For every squeaky clean Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith, there seems to be dozens of guys like Michael Vick.

As a parent, I can almost live with what these guys do off the field. It’s my job to be the role model for my girls. They need to see a hard-working person providing for the family. I’m involved in their homework, their responsibilities around the house and the way they speak with adults among the thousands of other responsibilities I have. They know what’s right and wrong, even at 4 and 6 years old.

What’s grayer and not so easy to distinguish is how these athletes act on the field. Having never been a professional athlete, I don’t know about this type of competition. But my dad and little league coaches taught me about sportsmanship before X’s and O’s.

The business world is often compared to the sports world, but there are major differences.

In business, winning isn’t determined the same way. We do what we can within ourselves to make us better. We compete with others in our own profession, but there is room for both parties. By our very nature, we need each other to remain viable and meaningful to our customers. If others weren’t pushing us, we’d have no reason to get better. We coexist and often become better for it.

In professional sports, it’s kill or be killed. You must destroy the opponent.

While it is true that in football, the tough get tougher and everyone else folds into oblivion, That’s a lesson that’s lost on the children who watch it. What often they see is one team purposefully working to embarrass the other opponent.

Unfortunately, those thousands of Dallas Cowboy fans in the area and their children were privy to that this past Sunday. Dallas lost 34-3, a dominating loss in NFL terms. Even worse considering it was playoff football.

A day earlier, my hometown New Orleans Saints beat the Arizona Cardinals by the same margin — 45-14 (31 points). The difference was stark. The Saints were up by 21 at the half and called off the dogs in the second. They scored on a field goal and on a punt return. The offense played conservatively, knowing they would win. I firmly believe they could have scored 70 that day if they kept playing.

The Vikings, up 17 points and easily in control of the game against Dallas were going for more. And this isn’t college football, where scoring margin matters. In the NFL a 1-point win is equivalent to 31. A win is a win.

Brett Favre, not my favorite athlete because of his selfish behavior off the field and on, did what we all expect of Favre. He kept pressing, trying to embarrass his opponent.

This makes for good drama and next year when the Cowboys and Vikings face off in the regular season, it’ll be a great story for the NFL. But the children watching just saw exactly what is wrong with the NFL.

In high school football, we’ve all seen the Ennis Lions call off the dogs. They may beat an opponent by 60, but typically it’s with second-, third- or even fourth-stringers in the game. The Vikings had first-stringers on national television trying to blast America’s Team into the Stone Age.

I really don’t care about Tony Romo’s feelings, Wade Phillips’ job security or Keith Brooking’s opinions. The children watching saw unsportsmanlike behavior from professional players who should have been more concerned with the Saints at that point than trying to demolish their opponent.

I’m not going to urge little leagues to stop keeping score and give a trophy to everyone, both winners and losers. But sportsmanship is key to our youth activities.

Children learn life lessons in the way sports is played out. Showboating and embarrassing your opponent is not what sports should be about.

It’s too bad coaches like Brad Childress of the Vikings can’t control his team. The last time he tried to pull Favre from a game, the 40-year-old quarterback threw a hissy fit. The same type of fit that ran Favre, an icon in Wisconsin, out of Green Bay even after he became one of the NFL’s most storied franchises most beloved players.

They were sick of his selfish behavior after retiring and unretiring right before the season began. His replacement was named while he was retired and the Packers stuck to it for the good of the team. This is the same guy who many of my friends in Hattiesburg despised because of his attitude and behavior whenever he came back home.

Favre and the Viking players are role models to someone. Not here in Texas, of course. It’s a shame our athletes don’t realize our children are watching. As a parent it’s my job to explain why that was uncalled for and not acceptable when they play Upward Bound basketball at Tabernacle Baptist Church or little league softball in the future.

Taking your foot off the gas when the game is at hand and the goal is achieved is what respectable athletes do. One who sees the game beyond their own millions of dollars and fame would get this.

Tre Bischof is publisher of The Ennis Daily News. He can be reached by sending e-mail to tre@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Jan 24 2010. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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