Many people remember Charles Barkley’s infamous Nike commercial opening with the simple phrase, “I am not a role model.” But for millions of people, athletes have helped shape who they are today. Whether it was on the football field, or the basketball court, we have all had people who we have looked up to in life and have tried to be like. With this in mind, people who are in a position of influence are held at a higher standard by the general public. Is this fair judgment? Maybe, maybe not. The real question is do these athletes realize that they are on a pedestal and have to carry themselves differently, and do they even care?
Growing up, two of my idols were Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods. Jeter has carried himself with class and has stayed out of the national spotlight better than most athletes or any celebrities could imagine. Staying away from major scandals, he has established himself as a face of Major League Baseball both on the field and off it.
Tiger Woods, however, has had a different route. I still remember the young, skinny Tiger in 1997 fist-pumping his way around Augusta National en route to the biggest Masters win the world has ever seen. I was a star-struck 6-year-old and was fascinated with his drive and will to win. However in 2009, when one of the worst infidelity scandals any sport has ever seen was exposed, Woods lost many fans and admirers. Some were able to forgive; others may never be able to.
This all brings me to one of the most shocking and perplexing stories imaginable. Oscar Pistorius, a South African sprinter, ran right into the hearts of millions in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The impossible story of the double leg amputee, nicknamed “Blade Runner,” who qualified for the Olympics and nearly qualified for the 400 meter final. He instantly became an international star and hero. Tragedy struck the hearts of millions when, on the morning of Feb. 14, Pistorius was charged with murder of his girlfriend. Within hours, every billboard and promotion featuring Pistorius in South Africa was
While the details are hazy and much is yet to be discovered, the Pistorius case is another example of how many sports stars let fans down due to the high standards they are held at. Should we lower our expectations, or should the athletes raise their own standards? Maybe both.