Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Life in the big city can be pretty easy if you’re an elite athlete. For those perks and benefits, a little responsibility is the currency required. Unfortunately, errors in judgment lead to front page headlines. And while athletes proclaim that they are not role models to the youth of the country, their stature allows them to advertise plenty of stuff to those same people who actually do revere star players.
Joakim Noah is pretty revered in Gainesville, Florida, home of his alma mater and where he led the Gators to a couple of NCAA basketball championships. But he wasn’t above the law when he was arrested for drinking on the streets and was found in possession of marijuana. It may not be a major crime, but it may change how parents decide to present Mr. Noah to their kids as a role model.
So why do I care?
Last night, a college student decided that it would be cool to chug a bottle of Captain Morgan. It wasn’t cool when he passed out, then stopped breathing and needed to be placed on a ventilator until his body could detoxify his blood alcohol level of .604 or more than seven times the legal limit to drive a car.
Last night, a high school kid tried to get high on Benadryl and sleeping pills and ended up in ICU.
Last night, a guy rolled his motorcycle, was ejected and died.
There is no relationship between Joakim Noah and any of the hundreds of people who are injured or die each night because of drugs and alcohol. But as a society, we hope that those people who we hold in high regard would understand the power they have to make a difference in people’s lives.
We are fortunate that the mistakes we make tend to be forgiven by fate. Some of the mistakes are truly accidents, while others are errors in judgment. Sometimes these errors aren’t forgiven and the consequences can be fatal to not only the individuals but bystanders as well.
Yannick Noah is a hero in France as the winner of the French Open tennis title and as a rock star. His reaction was pretty nonchalant. “I don’t understand all that fuss for just drinking a beer on the street.” He is right. The beer on the street and the marijuana in the pocket will get his son a slap on the wrist, nothing more. But Noah senior doesn’t appreciate the potential effect of his son’s actions on the fans who look up to him as a role model.
Following the rules may be boring and less than hip, chic, cool or down especially when they have to do with drugs and alcohol. I would hope that the messages coming from the words and actions of athletes would be more positive and uplifting. Arrogance does not become our role models.