I used to be a big NBA fan. I grew up in Utah during the era of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Those two sports figures were always elevated figures that I looked up to. Neither ever rose to the level of John Elway in my mind, however, but they were the two sports figures that fell right behind John Elway.
I looked up to John Stockton and Karl Malone not as people, but as basketball players and I modeled how I played basketball after how they played the sport. Hours were spent out in the front driveway practicing my passing to match John Stockton’s passing and my low post moves to match Karl Malone’s low post moves.
Modeling my football playing after John Elway wasn’t realistic, but I always looked up to him and I even shed a few tears when he won his first Super Bowl. Watching him retire from the Denver Broncos was very surreal for me. I had never known the Denver Broncos without John Elway and in my mind he should be Denver’s quarterback until the day I died.
What does all this have to do with parenting? Well, I was pretty disgusted when I accidentally saw a commercial that ran during one of the recent NBA Playoff games.
I don’t watch the NBA anymore. I haven’t watched the NBA since Tony Parker took nine steps without dribbling two years ago and didn’t get whistled for traveling. That’s not real basketball so I have hard time watching a sport that pretends to be a game that I grew up loving. But every once in a while I’ll flip on the TV and an NBA game will be on and I’ll catch whatever portion is playing before I can get the channel changed. Well, that’s what happened the other night. I flipped on the TV and I saw an NBA commercial that was promoting the movie Man of Steel. For those who don’t know, Man of Steel is the new updated version of Superman that is supposed to be released pretty soon.
The premise of the commercial was that greatness comes from within. The screen would flash between scenes of Superman from Man of Steel and shots of NBA stars doing NBA moves. The commercial in a not-so-subtle way was promoting NBA stars as heroes and that’s my issue.
There are sports figures that can be looked up to as generally good people with good characteristics, but heroes? No. Carmelo Anthony isn’t even a role model, let alone a hero. Lebron James? No thanks. Chris Bosh? Dwayne Wade? Tim Duncan? No. None of those guys are heroes. They play a very loose version of basketball for a living while making millions and millions of dollars.
Being a basketball player and making millions of dollars does not make someone a hero and it sends a terrible message to the youth. I idealized John Elway, Karl Malone and John Stockton. I remember how impressionable I was when I was that age. Even though I never looked at those three as sports heroes in my mind, I don’t think it would have taken much of an effort from the NFL’s and NBA’s marketing department to make me consider them as actual heroes.
What happens if Carmelo Anthony gets another DUI, or another one of these perceived heroes drives drunk down the road and commits manslaughter like Donte Stallworth? How do you explain to your kid that these people are heroes who also do bad things that either have hurt other people or could potentially hurt other people? Just look at OJ Simpson’s fall. He probably approached hero status to many Bills fans, but he’s likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Sports figures can provide a lot of good entertainment and some examples of good human behavior, but rarely if ever should they be considered heroes because they play a game and make a lot of money playing that game.
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