"People say athletes should be role models. I never looked up to any athlete, did you? I liked them. I didn't copy them. Did you ever listen to one of those guys talk? Would you want your kid to turn out like that?" -- George Carlin.
Autumn is the most fitting time of the year when concerned parents should seriously consider taking off the kid gloves and put the role of professional athletics in its proper place in the total scheme of things especially their children's lives.
Athletes are merely high priced sports entertainers meant to help the majority of our contemporary society find a means of enjoying a momentary escape from their daily stress filled lives.
Doing so would permit our children to not have to needlessly struggle and strain during their formative years to notch their place in a sport hierarchy saturated primarily by large egos, drug abuse, chronic alcoholisnm and personal despair.
As a functioning group in our culture many athletes are highly skilled, over paid trained professionals whose sole purpose in reality is to provide moments of excitement, daring do and escapist fantasy for a bored and demanding public.
The majority of the unathletic publicly elevate the social status of these folks to hero worship dimensions. This group would necessarily include out of shape high school and university sports coaches bent on making a name for themselves and their schools in the press. Afterall, a certain tradition and intercollegiate rivalry must be maintained.
The autumn is also the time of year when the negative aspect of such hero worship does more harm than good for youngsters returning to the class room setting. Overly zealous coaches begin drilling into their young charges the importance of winning at any cost.
Children are methodically conditioned to believe that their personal worth in society is linked directly to their performance on the playing field. Coaches relentlessly chide, cajole and eventually ostracise youngsters who do not give 100 per cent of themselves to the sport they are pursuing.
The psychological pressure increases dramatically if the high school student is attending an institution known for it's football or basketball prowess. The learning years in this type of pressure filled scenario morph into the yearning years --- students dread not so much for the learning aspect but rather the peer pressure to perform .
From what a person can gather from the media reports many higher priced athletes are dysfunctional personality types whose lives are mottled with the following social stigma: chronic mood swings; drug addiction, difficulty maintaing close interpersonal relationships; alcohol addiction and of course, overly inflated egos.
A significant number of these alleged heroes have spent the past off season summer months in a number of interesting places: a jail cell serving out their time for a D.U.I conviction; rehab facility for a drug addiction; family counselling program to smooth over their strained at home life setting; psychological counseeling for a sport related incident involving a major head trauma.
Our heroes are afterall only human and subject to the same stresses and temptations that we all are subject to in life. It is how they handle the challenges they face that is important. Perhaps our heroes actually believe their own press reports and start to see themselves as people above reproach.
It is high time to reconsider our generally accepted notions of heroes and of course villains. Do we want our children to emulate these folks to such a degree that they actually become like them and suffer their fate?
This school year before you purchase your son's first athletic support or your daughter's gym outfit have a heart to heart chat with them. Try to ensure that the sport they have chosen to pursue is somthing they want and not something they believe you want them to pursue.