An Open Letter to Male Sports Stars

Dear Male Sports Stars,

I write to you as the mother of two little boys who adore what they know about sports. True, at two and four, their understandings of all things sports is rather limited. BigBrother knows that you kick a soccer ball in a net, sometimes people knock you down and that t-ball is awesome. LittleBrother knows that football in the side yard is the perfect way to end a day. They know that winning isn’t everything and the point of a game is to have fun and learn new things. They ask to watch football on TV and, season permitting, we oblige.

But I worry.

Someday they’re going to realize that the guys they see on television playing their favorite games in front of huge crowds were Everyday Dudes like they are. They will put two and two together that you can grow up in Small Town America, work really hard at something you have a passion for and succeed. They’re going to look up to you. I’d love to teach my boys that they can succeed in whatever they desire. Whether their future passion is for sports, photography, fire fighting, medicine, chess, art, music, spelunking or what have you, I want them to know that they can achieve it, that dreams are attainable.

Thankfully, they have positive male role models. Their Dad is a shining example of wanting something and working hard to achieve it. Their grandfathers and great-grandfathers are all amazing, strong men. But I know that some boys look up to male sports stars. The shock-and-awe factor of scoring a touchdown under the lights while millions of people cheer for you is tantalizing to a young boy.

So, could you all stop acting like complete nitwits?

Cases in point: a four game suspension for (repeated) substance abuse (plus, a trade because he’s a trouble-maker);  continuous bad decisions involving women, night clubs and alcohol; and even drunken run ins with the police. And those are just examples from my first and only football team allegiance. Let’s not forget Tiger, OJ Simpson (and that’s just talking about his most recent stunt) and, sadly, countless others. As of late, it’s on the news every day. So-and-so did such-and-such. In fact, Male Sports Stars, you’re starting to make the days of being a female celebrity parading around without underwear seem tame.

I’m not saying you have to be angelic. You don’t need to sit in your houses and be Saints, day in and day out. (Unless you play for the Saints. Then you automatically win.) What I am asking, however, is that you remember being a child. For a moment, ignore your fame and your status and your vehicles and your homes and the adoring fans and remember being a child. Remember looking up to That One Sports Star and thinking, “Gee, that’d be swell.” Remember working your butt off to get where you are today. Remember people telling you that you weren’t going to make it. Remember the struggles. Remember succeeding because you worked really, really hard. Don’t throw it all down the drain. If not for yourself, because you deserve it, do it because my kids are watching.

Sure, I could teach them that even sports stars fall and fail and make human mistakes. However, when the stories coming out of the sporting world are more negative than positive, I’m not sure how to teach them the difference between making a mistake and whatever it is that you guys keep doing. If it was just one story, once in a Blue Moon or even once a year, nay, just once a month where one of you guys wasn’t doing something absolutely ridiculous, I’d have less to complain about. We teach children that participating in sports will help them stay off drugs. You teach them differently by getting caught with drugs. We teach them that in team sports, it’s not all about the me-me-me. You throw a tizzy when you don’t get your way. We teach them to value and respect women. You allegedly throw glasses at them, treat them like tradeable trophies and generally get caught with your pants down. You’re undoing all of our hard work. I’d tell them to simply ignore what you’re doing but, as you might know, a parent telling a child to ignore something makes them want to do it all the more.

I understand that you guys are some kind of a celebrity once you hit the national playing fields. I get that. Glitz and glam are awfully distracting. It probably feels good to walk in a room and know that every eye is on you, that every man wants to be you and every female wants you. I question, however, if it wouldn’t feel better to be respected both on and off the field. If you wouldn’t feel like a better person if you weren’t engaging in risky behaviors, strutting your stuff without the ability to let your guard down and occasionally breaking the law. I can’t help but imagine the stress that those kinds of things add on to the fact that, God forbid, one misstep leads to a life-altering injury and you’re simply done for good.

I don’t want to be you. I don’t envy your lifestyle or the stress you have to endure. And right now, guys, I don’t want my sons to envy you or grow up to be like you either. And that’s a shame. I’d really hate to have to add an addendum to the “you can be anything you want to be” speech to let them know that they can be anything they want to be as long as they aren’t a drug-using, women-abusing, cheating, lying, law-breaking, tax-evading professional male sports star. That’s really too long-winded, even for me.

To be honest, I’d like to go back to the day where I can watch you score a touchdown or your sport’s equivalent and not think, “I hope he doesn’t screw up again. I like watching him play.” So, if you could quit messing up your personal lives to the point of no return and just get back to the heart of it all, I’d be eternally grateful.

Sincerely,

FireMom, who is a huge sports fan herself and feels equally letdown as of late

PS – I really do still love you guys. Kind of. Most of you. Some of you. Sometimes.

 

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8 Replies to “An Open Letter to Male Sports Stars”

    1. Thanks! It’s been bugging me for awhile. I’ve been struggling with the “they’re only human” argument versus the “stop being nitwits” argument. In fact, I was using a different word other than nitwits but, ah, family blogging. Nitwits won on both issues.

  1. You should send this to Sports Illustrated. Seriously!
    Although there are plenty of athletes who don’t screw up, donate to charity time (not just money) and set good examples they are hidden by the antics of the ones who screw up. Kinda like teenagers get press – only the bad ones.
    My hubby & I disagree on professional sports in alots of ways (he’s a super fanactic) but not this one. It worries me too with our son. Not that rock stars, pro skateboarders, etc. are better role models. And I’m sorry, the line “we didn’t ask to be role models” is a huge bunch of hooey! Goes along with the total lack of personal accountability and responsibilty – every single professional athlete knows he is a role model whether he likes it or not.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..My blog is carbon neutral =-.

    1. I can’t fathom the hate mail that would come if this was published anywhere but here. I’m nervous about Trollz as it is!

      And you’re right: there are great male (and female) sports stars that give back, do awesome jobs in local communities and generally shun the celebrity spotlight. It’s these nitwits that thrive on the glam that throw everything for a loop. And, yes, rock stars/etc are equally nitwit like.

      I also don’t buy the “we didn’t ask to be role models” line. If you ask any of these sports stars if they had a sports star whom they looked up to, they’ll have a name to offer. It comes part and parcel with the fame. If they understood that and took advantage of it in the proper ways, they could make such a difference.

  2. This is an absolutely wonderful letter!! I feel exactly the same way!!! It is so crazy. I am often glad that we are hockey fans. You do not hear as much about the insane antics of hockey players. I am not sure if that means they do not do it or just that no one really cares what hockey players do. But even if that is true it still works because we can just enjoy the game :)
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  3. Amen. My boys are sports fanatics, play whatever the sport of the season is… and they are 6 and 11. I’m tired of being forced into uncomfortable conversations about “infidelity” “steriods” “strip clubs” and “sex addiction” just because we watched ESPN or listen to sports talk radio in the car… (and b/c of where we live, let’s just say we learned a lot about unfaithful former star quarterbacks who get shot by their much younger mistress…)

    Like you, I am thankful my boys have an active, involved father, and we try to identify sports stars who appear to have a good work ethic, and hopefully just plain ol’ good ethics. But what about those millions of boys across the country who don’t?

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