I'm sick and tired of hearing athletes skewered for their personal indiscretions. Rarely do you see a athlete both on top of his sport AND being vilified. It's because we as human beings all have our faults. Deep down, consciously, we all are aware of this. Yet, when a player, no matter what sport he or she plays, is caught doing something wrong OUTSIDE OF THEIR sport, we immediately start comparing them to school teachers and clergy. These people are not brought in to be role models. They did not play their sport as children with the sole hope of changing peoples lives. Many athletes choose to do the 'nicer' things, because some feel it truly is their calling or maybe they just want to give back.
Let's start with baseball and take it back a few decades. Was Babe Ruth considered a great role model? The beer guzzling and hot dog eating? Was DiMaggio and his womanizing cool? Ty Cobb, biggest racist in maybe all of sports, was a great ballplayer, all of these guys great ballplayers, but for the most part beloved by fans then and fans now. The most recent former home run king was basically a speed user, as were many players in his time- and they did it to perform during games. Is that not performance enhancing? Where are all those asterisks? Consider it this way, as this is my own opinion:
Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, (Insert PED user here) were simply trying to get the upper hand in their careers. It's not as though they popped magic pills that made them Superman. They were dedicated in their work ethic, they were talented since childhood, they were often the first ones in and the last ones out at the end of the day. It was a commitment they made to themselves, whether selfishly or not, that in turn, made their team better. Early on, before the drugs were tested for, can you fault a player for using? Really? I mean, if you had an office job and I told you that you could use this certain program that would improve your quality of work, make your 'team' (your peers or your underlings) better, and possibly increase your rate of pay...would you do it? Of course. We all do. Now, once they make it illegal to do it, will you continue do it? Look, I don't like the slant that these PEDs put on some of our favorite players of our generation. I hate having to compare what "so and so's numbers" look like next to "PED user's numbers." I'm just saying that when some of the earlier users were juicing, I doubt they were behind closed doors, ringing their hands in excitement, thinking " shoot this and I'm Superman!"
What about football? Why don't we go crazy when they use steroids? I'll bet over the years, maybe twice as many football players have used the drugs. A QB can't throw further, a receiver can't run faster, a lineman can't get THAT MUCH STRONGER? Do steroids make you throw more accurately, as people think it makes you hone in on a baseball easier? Does it give you the ability to catch a ball with ONE HAND and three fingertips? Rarely do we see steroids being a big issue in our favorite football players. And then there are players like Terrell Owens. I listened to sports radio today and heard the host call T.O. a fraud. A Fraud? No steroids, no wife beating, no tabloid headlines...certainly not a lack of statistics. I looked into his stats once and I'm pretty sure that T.O. (at this time two or three years ago) was already in the top 5 (maybe 3rd?) in most 'important receiving statistics'. People treat this guy like he is terrible. Forgive me, but even with all of his prima donna acts in the locker rooms and on the sidelines, the guy can BALL. He can catch, he can run, and he can score some touchdowns. Not to mention, for all the griping about T.O....he's pretty darn entertaining. If you were still playing football out on the street in front of your house and T.O. is on the sidelines, you'd want that guy on your team. Anyone who says they don't is a flat out liar. I could talk about Ben Roethlisberger, who was America's Sweetheart early in his career, only to be lynched in the media for a night that we don't completely know about. We weren't there, how do WE, the fans know? Think of it this way, in court, you can't say what someone else said. It's called "hear-say". Well, guess what the media does?
The last point I'll make here (simply to keep it short, because I could hit every sport, really) is about Tiger Woods. As a human being, a father, a husband, and the face of many products, Tiger Woods is a complete failure. We came down so hard after Tiger Woods, because he lifted us up so high. Early in his career, his smile and humble demeanor helped bring interest to a dying sport. It also merged a big gap between African American's and golf. Tiger said all the right things, did all the right things, and damn it - HE WON! He amazed people that didn't even PLAY golf. He had a beautiful wife, wonderful children, blah blah blah. Who cares? Did Jack Nicklaus' wife ever putt one in for him? Did we follow Arnold Palmer from the course to the bar and count his drinks before he drove home? Who cares what these people do in their personal lives. What's a shame is that the media is primarily to blame for all of this.
Throughout the years athletes AND celebrities like actors and singers have all done their fair share of dirt behind the scenes, but because of today's media, we are all privy to the details. It should not change the product that we see on the field or the love we have for them AS athletes. It's time that we started to separate athletes and role models. Looking for your fair sure of role models in sports, is like looking for your future wife in a bar. These players are all paid to entertain. We should live and die by the things they do on the diamond, within the hashmarks, on the fairways, the rinks, and the courts - not the things they do off of them.