Where Have All the Role Models Gone?

I remember a summer day ten years ago when my sports fanatic son declined going to the pool with his friends so he could watch the final stage of the Tour de France.  He was fixated on his new idol, Lance Armstrong.  So fixated, in fact, that immediately after Armstrong won, my son begged me to take him to the Discovery Channel Store so he could spend a hundred dollars of his lawn mowing money on a replica of the yellow jersey Armstrong wore during much of the Tour de France that year.

My son even wore it as his Halloween costume.

My son even wore it as his Halloween costume.

This was a very big deal because, not only has my son always been a sports nut, but he loves his money, too.  So it took a lot for him to part with his hard earned cash.  But his father and I let him do it because we believed at the time that Lance Armstrong was a pretty worthy role model for a twelve-year-old boy.  Little did we know.

Now here’s the funny (or sad, depending upon your perspective) part:  Armstrong’s fall from grace didn’t traumatize my son as much as I would have thought.  By that time, my teenager had already been jaded to the duplicity of the world of professional sports.  Everybody does it has become a catch phrase that really angers me.  Too many Millennials and Gen-Xers (or Y’s or whatever they are) adopt the phrase as a mantra.

Sure, the list of role models who turn out to be more human than super hero is long:  Alex Rodriquez, Ryan Braun, Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, Shaun White and Hope Solo, to name a few.  But there have to be some role models out there, right?  Surely the Kardashians aren’t who we want our children looking up to?  And I’m not even going to suggest they should look up to elected officials who refuse to lead.brian williams

And then there’s Brian Williams.  I have to admit this one is a lot harder to swallow than some of the others.  He’s a likeable guy in a business that I was once a part of.  Because I still consider myself a journalist, the offense of “misrepresenting the facts” really sticks in my craw.  I’m not saying we should hold journalists in esteem higher than others–hello Steve Kroft and Dan Rather, not to mention an entire cable news channel–but, hey, we just can’t go making things up.  Well, unless you write fiction like I do, but that’s not the business Brian Williams was in.  At least not yet, anyway.

This whole mess has left with me a sense of melancholy, especially as a parent.  Who are kids supposed to look up to these days?  My motives are purely selfish here.  It’s a lot of pressure to be the only role-model for your child–especially since they think you’re dumber than dirt for a majority of their life.  Of course, we could all go around adopting the philosophy of Dr. Greg House from TV’s House and submit to the tenet that “everybody lies”.

Photo by Jackolyn

Photo by Jackolyn

I don’t want to be a cynic, though.  I want to believe in the good within people.  That’s why I write romance, because I want to read a happily ever after.  I want role models who are worthy.  And not just for my kids.

But I also subscribe to the notion that we are all human.  We all make mistakes.  It’s how we move on after those mistakes that shows our character.  So no, A-Rod, a hand written “I’m sorry” isn’t going to cut it with me.  And Lance, having your girlfriend lie for you is just unmanly.  It’s left to you, Brian. Please don’t let me down.

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About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at www.tracysolheim.com.

Posted on February 20, 2015, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Lance Armstrong is despicable mostly because he feels no shame or remorse for what he did. Take heart, however, there are great role models in sports–we just don’t hear about them.

    In writing the book on Chris Norton, the college athlete who broke his neck playing football and went on to start a foundation to help spinal cord injury victims, he references several sports figures who reached out to him with consistency who never publicized their efforts. Ryan Clark of the Pittsburg Steelers for one, Urban Meyer of Ohio State for another. There are good guys out there, but they don’t make headlines for doing the right thing.

  2. Our feet of clay are more obvious and knowable in this world of ever-present news and technology.

    I think there are lots of good role models that aren’t famous. Lyle’s swim coaches have been some of the fines people I’ve ever met. Hard working, discipline people doing what they do because they love the sport and love the kids.

    There’s so much good in the world, but it’s not sensational so nobody hears about it. Hang in there. There is good news all a round you.

  3. It’s an excellent question. My daughters are at an age now where they really sit up and pay attention to those in the media, especially those whose music or writing or acting they’re drawn to. So many of the former Disney Channel kids have crossed over into adulthood, and they’re choosing to do so with inappropriate and provocative behavior. Scads of kids and tweens can’t (and shouldn’t) reconcile these new “grown ups” with the images they came to love. And I get it, yes, these actors and singers are trying to prove they’re more than the wholesome character they played in the past, they want to shake the goody-goody persona and claim adulthood. But they’re setting SUCH a bad example in the process. I’m just thankful my kids shake their own heads like I do mine, and recognize that what’s happening isn’t something to aspire to.

  4. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any such thing as a good role model. Everyone is fallible, and everyone’s value system is unique. Things I consider moral, you might consider corrupt, and vice versa. I decided a long time ago not to look outward for a moral compass, but to follow my own heart. It hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

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