Do you recall having loose leaf binders in school? I remember having a blue cloth loose leaf binder. I got my first one in 4th grade. I liked the different sections, the yellow dividers, and the inevitable reinforcements. However, what I liked most about having a loose leaf was that I could doodle on the cover. Whether its flowers and hearts or monsters and trucks, I think you can learn a lot about someone if you look at their doodles.
Well, if somehow my old loose leaf binders could be resurrected, they would confirm that I was a sports lunatic. I used to draw these rectangles which I envisioned as banners hanging from the rafters. This is where the elite athletes would have their names one day. However, the day came a little early for those I chose from among the stars of the Philadelphia teams of my youth – Clarke, Barber, Montgomery, Carmichael, Erving, Toney, Carlton, and Schmidt.
I put these players and many others on a pedestal. I looked up to them and imagined what it would be like to meet them. They were more than athletes I saw on television. I felt as if I knew them. I see my high school students do the same thing today. They are completely obsessed with particular players – Lebron James could have a thriving fan club just comprising the students I had last year.
In the years since my early ‘doodles’, I’ve realized that I did not know where to ‘draw the line’ – pun intended. Being a professional athlete means that an individual has been blessed with great skill which he or she has honed through hours upon hours of practice. It does not mean the athlete is a good person. It does not mean that I know the athlete because I have seen them perform their sport. I do not know them, and I have no true understanding of the type of person he/she is.
I want my boys to enjoy sports. Enjoying and partaking in sports is good exercise and a great way for children to bond. However, I do not want my boys to obsess over sports and blur the lines between a star on the field of play and a wonderful person in the game of life.
Respecting and admiring the athlete for his/her talents is fine. However, I also want my children to respect the policeman who puts his life on the line, the fireman who saves others, the military man who protects the country, the teacher who enables children, the entrepreneur who seeks to make things better, the scientist who tries to find a cure, the doctor who helps people to feel better, the religious figure who gives guidance, etc.
The point is everyone who works hard, shows care for others, strives to better himself/herself is deserving of respect. No one – particularly someone you don’t know – should be idolized. When it comes to worship, you should look above for inspiration and not around.
When my children get their first loose leaf binder, they will surely come to doodle on it at some point. As they consider what to doodle on their book, I hope that they will go beyond my options.
PS. I wrote a newspaper article about the Penn State situation that is related to this. Here’s the link: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/163267936_What_to_do_when_idol_is_shown_to_have_feet_of_clay.html?page=all