January 18, 2013

Sadly, a Hero is Nothing More Than a Sandwich

By - Keith Smith

Years ago, I was miffed at Charles Barkley when he stood up and said, "I am not a role model."

I think the reason it bothered me was because when I was growing up, athletes were role models (or at least they appeared to be). Charles saying he nor any athlete should be a role model burrowed under my skin.

Photo by: Getty Images
Although, in light of the recent collective falls from grace by Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o, along with the slap in the face that Baseball's Hall of Fame gave to the 'Steroid Stars' last week, I'm beginning to think Sir Charles may well have been a genius.

Last night, in the first part of a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted to lying, cheating, and more-or-less stealing when he used performance enhancing drugs to capture 7 Tour de France titles. The second part airs tonight, and who knows what other jewels will be uncovered.

Te'o's woes came to light this week when online news agency Deadspin broke the story that his "girlfriend," who supposedly died of leukemia just a few hours after his grandmother back in September, never really existed. The following 36 hours have been a whirlwind of people trying to figure out what are lies, what are truths and what are half-truths. Stay tuned.

The steroid era in baseball was the poster child for Barkley's mantra. If you played Major League Baseball from the late 80s through the early 2000s, no matter how clean your persona, you will forever be linked with cheaters, guilty or not. Bonds and Clemens, Sosa and McGwire, Canseco and Palmeiro. Every player suffering for their collective actions and forever linked to their legacy.

Perhaps when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, I was fooling myself when I called guys like Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente, Roger Staubach and Gale Sayers, Oscar Robinson and Jerry West my heroes. I saw in them, or so I thought, the man I wanted to become. One who would woo the world with a game-winning knock, or a touchdown in overtime, or a last-second buzzer-beater arched high off the glass. With the exception of Clemente, though, it was never what they did off the field that I wanted to emulate. In fact, I'm not even sure I could tell you back then what, if anything, those guys did off the field.

Now, the off-field exploits seem so much more in the forefront, but for all the wrong reasons. Maybe the media is to blame for exposing the underbelly that we didn't see back in those days. Or perhaps the fans are to blame for lusting after the athlete's dirty laundry.

When a story is done on Tim Tebow going on a mission trip, people just dismiss it and call him a holier-than-thou attention hound looking for publicity. But in the last few days, there has been a feeding frenzy surrounding Te'o, with fans circling like sharks ready to devour every juicy detail. We as a society apparently love to hear the muck, or even provide some of our own, even when it's completely baseless.

Or, maybe we can just place the blame right where it belongs -- at the feet of the athletes themselves.

I'm inclined to agree with you now, Charles. None of you are role models any more.


  1. Couldn't agree more. For the most part, these guys today lack two things that the older generation of athlete had an abundance of. Humility and class.

  2. Part of the problem is society as a whole has lost touch with God. The church and religion were more important with previous generations. When we lose touch with Our Savior, we lose our way. God bless.

  3. Armstrong is nothing buy a low life liar. From what has come out today, Teo was a victim. But I agree that athletes aren't role models. Today's athlete is entirely too selfish.

  4. I agree. We all love sports, but in the light of so many issues in the news these days, sadly they're not viewed as heros, they are just people like you and I. A hero can be a mother or father, your HS science teacher. Children admire kindness, goodness and the truth. If we as adults are good role models, our children hopefully can make a difference in their future.

  5. Armstrong is a complete scumbag. T'eo is just retarded.

  6. Nice post, Keith. Totally agree with you.