Tuesday, April 20, 2010

On sports & media-manufactured role models

Tim Keown has written a thought-provoking piece about one of the most recent big-time sports stars who got caught acting like a sociopath. In this case, it's Ben Rothlisberger, star quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.*

Keown includes a fascinating take on this topic that did not occur to me until I read it (most fascinating part for me in italics):

The whole role-model thing might be the most ludicrous idea ever imagined. The concept of our coddled and impressionable youth drawing life lessons from a guy with a big curveball or an ability to move in the pocket is solely a construct of the industry and its mouthpieces. It was born on the back of myth: the slugger promising the ailing boy a homer, the fearsome defensive tackle tossing his jersey in exchange for a soda. In real life, a kid might model his seven-step drop after Roethlisberger, but beyond that they're both on their own.

I don't specialize in this field of history, but identification of the source of the myth of the sports role model seems accurate. To add to this, consider other corporate- and media-manufactured "role models": Babe Ruth and Red Grange. I don't have time to list them all.

* Who have two very lucky Super Bowl victories to their credit over the past few years to add to their amazing run in the 1970s. Did I mention the part about them being very very lucky? Particularly against those plucky Arizona Cardinals. Lucky bastards.


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