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.
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.
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”.
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.