Growing up is hard to do. The older we get, the more negatives we encounter. For people my age, watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa swing for the fences, trying to break Roger Maris' home run record had us counting the long balls. Lance Armstrong overcomes testicular cancer and wins seven Tour De France races, and we were amazed by the great turnaround recently of Melky Cabrera, watching him lead the National League batting title in August and take home the MLB All Star MVP in July.
As the days pass, we realize that our heroes and role models are not who we thought they were. We learned that many of the home run hitters from the 1980's through the early 2000's were taking steroids. Cabrera tests positive for PED's and is suspended 50 games. Now, the one person we thought was a pure athlete, Lance Armstrong, has ended his fight with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and has been banned from competition and his seven Tour De France wins are erased like the late Joe Paterno's wins were after the NCAA sanctions. I guess you can add Paterno to the list of role models gone wrong.
Charles Barkley once said "I'm not a role model." While many can't take everything the former NBA great says seriously, he's right on this one.
Athletes and other sports figures are viewed as superior human beings. Some are feel good stories like Armstrong. Many can relate to his story. Overcoming cancer, and then winning the biggest cycling race in the world seven times. Most people who beat cancer will never accomplish that feat, but it gives them hope. All of us bought the yellow "Livestrong" wristbands, and saw him as a role model.
When news began to circulate that Armstrong might have been doping during those races. We didn't want to believe it. We called Floyd Landis a liar when he spoke out against Armstrong. With Armstrong ending his vigorous battle with the USADA, it leaves everyone feeling like they have been mislead.
At the end of the day, we realize that athletes are just like us. They make mistakes. The only thing that separates them from us is their lives are on display for the public. For every baseball fan who loved watching Pete Rose hit the ball and bulldoze into catchers at home plate, watched him get banned from Major League Baseball for gambling. For Penn State football fans who couldn't believe that Jerry Sandusky would bring harm to children, and even worse, their beloved head coach turned a blind eye to what Sandusky was doing.
For all of us who didn't want to believe that Lance Armstrong, an athlete that everyone could relate to, was doping, we are left to ponder again our obsession with athletes and making them our role models.
So as you look at your yellow wristband, you think of what is truly important in life and who your role models should be. Don't go looking for them in professional athletes. Looking elsewhere for one closer to home is a better idea. To finish Barkley's comment, "just because I bounce a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." I guess the same can be said when Lance Armstrong rides his bicycle or Cabrera hits a ball.