Charles Barkley warned us about it in 1993. Professional athletes should not be role models.
Sir Charles gave us this gem back then stating, “A million guys can dunk a basketball in jail, should they be role models?”
Just can’t do it. I remember vividly the day I learned this valuable lesson, it was when I got my copy of Sports Illustrated with Sooner quarterback Charles Thompson being ushered to jail in his infamous orange jumpsuit.
I was a huge Sooner fan in those days. Practicing my option pitch every day after school dreaming of being the next Jamelle Hollieway. Hollieway goes down, Thompson leads the Sooners past Nebraska.
Then things start to happen in Norman. Rapes, drugs and weapons, brought Sooner Nation to its knees. One little boy, an eight-year-old living in Holdenville, Okla. went to bed with a tear soaked pillow the night of Thompson’s arrest. And that’s when I learned athletes should not be role models, parents should be. Didn’t need Sir Charles to tell me that.
Athletes, I’m not saying all of them, are just athletes. When the game is over, the story should end. When the lights are turned off, they are just like you and me, except the opportunity for failure is greater. More money, more temptation. Everybody wanting a piece of you, a picture, a friendship, which can lead to other things.
Which is why this whole Tiger Woods thing is not so shocking. He’s a one in a million golfer. What he did was disappointing to say the least. But it also reminds us that he is painstakingly human. Not exempt from temptation, and willing to use his power.
Woods seemed so flawless. He had his bad moments when he would shout curse words on the course after a bad shot, maybe throw a club. But we would wave that off as competitive fire. “Nobody wants it as bad as Tiger Woods,” the analysts would say. Myself included.
But we never knew the true Tiger Woods. We got what Nike fed us with their commercials that could send chills down your spine. Interviews with Tiger never shed any light on his personal life. All we had was his image, which was flawless. But turns out there was a reason for that. A glimpse inside might show us the true Tiger Woods, not that it would change anything. He’s still able to hit a golf ball like no other.
He’s a winner on the course, off it he’s human.
Which is the exact same reason people are quick to question Tim Tebow.
It’s the same reason I hate to do feature stories. Some people have stories that need to be told, but just as soon as you put someone in the spotlight, people are going to tear them down when they make a mistake like they had something to do with the image we created for them.
No doubt, Tiger made a big mistake and he will deal with that personally. And Nike will spend millions trying to repair his image, only this time they won’t be fooling anybody.