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Athletes Good Role Models?

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In today's world, sport stars and other athletes are looked up to by all ages. Everyoneloves them. They look great in the eyes of the everyday public. They appear ontelevision, they perform like rock stars, and do this with the entire world watching. Nowonder we make heroes out of our favorites. They are seen, as heroes because they can dothings that most of us can't. They hit fastballs at 95 mph, leap at balls in mid air, ordefy gravity and throw down a dunk. Their words are repeated and broadcasted throughoutthe world and their faces have appeared on the front of cereal boxes. But if you examineathletes while they're not on the court or on the field, you can see what they are likein every dimension. Athletes have many positive and negative sides that affect theirpublic face and both benefit and harm their abilities to become role models. The athlete as role model is by no means a new issue. In fact it is quite ancient. Asdistant as 800 B.C., when the Olympics were first played in Greece, the athletes all paidhomage to the Greek God Zeus. Olympia was originally on the sacred site of Gaia. Sportswere started as a religious ritual and the athlete was considered a demi-god,representing both the spectator and the gods. In Roman times 2000 years ago, athletesrepresented the state during the gladiator games and chariot races. They were seen assoldiers who reassured the citizen that the nation was strong. Today, athletes are notconsidered to be religious figures but nonetheless are accorded great material wealth,privilege, and fame. These figures are visible to us on a weekly basis. Because of theirtalent, salary, and positions as leaders, it's inevitable that we admire and identifythem with such integrity (Ferraro).Courage and determination aren't the only lessons we can learn from successful athletes.Some of the best athletes in history are the ones who can take their achievements instride. You have to love a sport in order to do it well. Hard-working and motivatedpeople understand that winning isn't everything. Leading a team in homeruns or3-pointers, is meaningless when compared to one just giving his/hers best shot at it.Champion distance runner Joan Benoit says, "Winning is neither everything nor the onlything. It is one of many things" (Globus). Athletes have made many contributions to society over the years. Los Angles Ramslinebacker George Andrews is one example. Andrews stood outside the principle's office atDouglas Macarthur Fundamental Intermediate School in Santa Ana, watching about threehundred sixth graders file into the auditorium for his anti-drug speech. "I think you cangive kids a positive role model, it helps." Andrews said (Berkow). All professional teamsin the L.A. area have Adopt a School programs, in which athletes meet with students andstress getting an education and staying off drugs (Berkow). Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox is another pro athlete who has done good deedsespecially for kids with disabilities. Wakefield ran a golf tournament (Tim WakefieldCelebrity Golf Classic) in Jan. 1993 and raised $40,275 for the Space Coast EarlyIntervention Center, which would have closed down in July of 1992 if it weren't for thehead of the center, Betsy Farmer, a close friend of Wakefield. In the past eight years,Wakefield has raised $1,127,704 for the organization, which has subsequently blossomedinto one of the nation's leading facilities in helping children with disabilities; mainlyDown Syndrome. Tim said this about the organization: "I'm very fortunate to be living adream and making the money I am, so why not give it to someone who really needsit?"(Horrigan). In 1989, about 8,000 schoolchildren from the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys,carried red, white, and blue balloons that read "JUST SAY NO" into the Rose Bowl inPasadena, CA for an anti-drug rally (Simross). This is just one program invented intohelping young students realize how negative drugs are. Ira David Wood founded aneight-month leadership program designed for high school athletes. "Leadership byinspiration is just one event of the eight month program. The program involvesexperiences designed specifically to use as many as the participants, senses as possible.When they can see it, feel it hear it and smell it then a memory is created, and a memorymeans they'll have a recall. Student-athletes involved in the program participate inpolice ride-alongs and mock city-council meetings; they solve community problems andtutor and coach elementary students (Kurek). When we look at athletes, we tend to see that not all that they do is good. Yes they aresupposed to be role models and present the youth with positive vibes. But in reality,they do as much bad as they do good. In the news all the time, we hear about people likeDarryl Strawberry and his multiple convictions of use of cocaine. Although he's just oneof the many pro athletes who are in the same boat, their actions affect youngerstudent-athletes, specifically in high school. A survey in Chicago, done by the ChicagoSun Times, found that more than 50% of Chicago area student-athletes said that drinkingamong their peers is a bigger problem than most people realize (Survey). Play sports byday, get drunk at night, and go to class in the morning. Is this an accurate picture ofstudent-athletes today? 80% of high school senior drink alcohol in the 50 states ofAmerica. Student-athletes attend parties, consume some beer, and their parents andcoaches have no clues about it (Survey). Where do the kids get the "ok" to do this? Yes,peer pressure is a problem, but by hearing and seeing professional athletes day in andday out getting in trouble for drugs and alcohol, kids will think it ok. Although student-athletes are involved in this, some places are doing something about it.In North Andover, MA for example. Student-athletes will lose their right to play just forbeing in the presence of alcohol or drugs (Ogden). As it stands, athletes caught actuallydrinking or doing drugs face a two-game or two-week suspension from play (Ogden). Misbehavior is always present in sports and fans can be aware of that. But what are therights and needs of the fans? Should they be mad when they see this misbehavior?



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