Does it matter what an athlete does outside the lines? Should we only care how he/she performs inside the arena of his/her chosen sport? Should an athlete be expected to be a role model? How we answer these questions indicates, to some extent, the values that are considered important in our society.
There are codes of conduct that are based on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our republic was founded. Those principles have so long been interwoven into the fiber of our society that they permeate every area of activity. They form the parameters of our ethics – the moral boundaries that every society must have to survive. Without them, every man does that which is right in his own eyes and each man becomes his own absolute truth.
Living within the boundaries helps to level the playing field – everyone is expected to play by the same rules. It’s called fair play. Remove those lines and people actually debate whether Bonds, McGuire, and the rest, should be penalized for cheating. It is a sad commentary that we have become so entertainment crazed that we are willing to accept the unethical and the immoral so long as it provides us with our mental recreation.
The same issues are being dealt with in the political arena of our nation. We now learn that John Edwards has been running around behind the back of his cancer stricken wife – all the while lying to the public. If that doesn’t turn your stomach you are probably past feeling. Does character matter in who we vote for and for whom we root for?
That is a question that must be answered by each individual. As a father, it does matter to me who my children are looking to as a hero. I have tried to teach them that, in many ways, sports can mirror life. Teamwork is important. Being “coach-able” is vital to success. Everyone must play by the rules, or suffer the consequences of being penalized. Failure is not a final stop. You can’t win by quitting. These are principles that sports re-enforced in my own life.
The mentality of many athletes is that they should not be penalized for what goes on outside the lines in their private life. The problem is that, unlike the days of Ruth and Mantle where rumors were spread but little was seen, there are few places anymore that are truly private. Camera-phones and You Tube and amateur newshounds are waiting to expose their every move to a world that craves the secret lifestyles of the rich and famous.
You can blame the pictures of A-Rod walking hand-in-hand with a stripper on the rampant scrutiny of a tabloid-minded public, but the choice was his. You don’t have to hide if you have nothing to hide.
Athletes are public employees. We hire them to entertain us, and in doing so we pay them handsomely and provide a stage upon which they can obtain fame and sports immortality. With that stage comes a spotlight that shines very brightly and very far. They need to grow up and realize that when they break the rules someone is going to throw the flag.