April 15, 2009
The age-old (no pun intended) adage goes, "Respect your elders."
Which, I believe, is completely necessary and essential in everyday life.
In the NFL and other popular sports leagues, however, I'm not completely certain that's feasible.
When you think of the NFL's snags, if you will, what's the first name that pops into your head?
For me, it's Terrell Owens.
As long as T.O. is in the NFL, the league will never be able to progress and garner any kind of national respect outside of avid fans.
Sure, Owens is a physical specimen. He's an absolute sight to behold; the guy is an animate sculpture. And that's what professional sports is all about, right? Beasts! Monsters! Guys who exhibit uncanny size, skills, and speed!
...and that's where the problem lies, folks.
Fans have become too wrapped up in the physical aspect of the game. Ethics, morals, and the flat-out will to do the right thing have all found themselves a comfortable spot on the backburner.
You may be OK with this, but I, speaking as a very passionate fan, am not.
I'm 17, so I'm more than cognizant to know not to imitate what these guys do.
To be honest, I wouldn't even want to imitate what some of these guys do.
But I'm 17. I'm no seasoned veteran, by any means, but I'm no innocent youth, either. There are hundreds of thousands of children out there who are completely unconscious to right and wrong.
And some of those children really fall into the "Monkey See, Monkey Do" category. Some turn on the TV and see Kobe Bryant being indicted on a rape charge.
Whether he raped the woman or not, folks, is not the underlying issue. It's the fact that he put himself in the predicament in the first place. He is married, for crying out loud!
How does that look to a budding 14-year-old kid?
I can tell you, almost verbatim.
"Man, Kobe's doin' it! Why can't I do it?"
Certain children will practice infidelity and carelessness just because their favorite athlete is doing it.
Some kids turn on the TV and see Barry Bonds, or Mark McGwire, or Miguel Tejada, or Sammy Sosa, or Roger Clemens, or now, more recently, Alex Rodriguez being sanctioned for steroid usage.
As a kid, I remember watching the home run race between McGwire and Sosa. The pursuit of the homer record really intrigued me. It was epic. It was thrilling.
It was cheating.
And even though McGwire ended up beating out Sosa, they both ultimately lost.
Even though Barry Bonds shattered McGwire's record, he ultimately lost.
And the kids who came up watching these spectacular events in a flailing sport ultimately lost, as well.
How does it look to a 15-year-old who's watching the congressional hearings involving McGwire, Tejada, and Sosa?
I can tell you, almost verbatim.
"They're usin' drugs to get an edge, so why can't I?"
Kids listen. Intently. Prominent people get through to them arguably more than their own parents. So why can't some athletes just be responsible and act accordingly?
Their outrageous salaries more than compensate for any kind of imposition upon their spare time.
As is usually the case, thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and his name is Aaron Curry.
Projected to be drafted in the top five of the NFL draft, Curry could be out partying night-in and night-out.
He could be blowing every single dollar he has at a strip club.
He could solicit any kind of floozie that he wanted to.
But he's not.
Instead, Curry paid a visit to the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
It wasn't a move engineered by his agent to deliver a speech to the kids. In fact, it wasn't a PR move at all.
Instead, it was a good gesture. A great gesture, I should say.
While at the hospital, Curry invited Bryson, a 12-year-old leukemia survivor, to accompany him to the Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2009 during the NFL draft.
Take a second to let that one digest.
This is Aaron Curry's dream. Albeit a huge one, this is the first milestone of Curry's career.
It's supposed to be about him, right? The big stage, the bright lights. It's his time, right?
Sure, he could invite a couple of immediate family members, but this is his day.
Aaron Curry could seclude himself from the world like most athletes do.
But he's not.
And while he's basking in his day, he's making someone else's, too.
"I think that is what life is about," Curry said in a statement. "I've learned that life isn't about me as an individual. It's about everyone around me and what I can do for the community. I've done my work to put myself into this position. Now it is about how I can take advantage of it to do things for the community."
That is NOT a future NFL star speaking. It can't be!
The only thing I've heard NFL stars uttering lately is their response to the reading of their Miranda rights!
This won't be on an "NFL Cares" commercial. This won't be a public service announcement.
This guy is doing this out of the kindness of his heart.
He is truly setting an example that most of his fellow NFL peers could stand to follow.
So, on draft day, when Curry is walking across the stage with his future team's hat on, I sincerely hope that specific veterans across the league are watching and taking notice.
And I hope they understand that until they right their ships, Aaron Curry, the rookie, will be running circles around them off the field.
And maybe, soon, on the field, too.