Should We Really Idolize Professional Athletes? by Paul Seyferth

I am a terrible person. Don’t blame me, though. It’s how I was raised. I guess you could blame society. In reality, though, I’m just your average sports fan.

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Adrian Peterson Mugshot

A couple weeks ago, charges came forth and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson admitted to physically disciplining his child with a switch. To any rational person, the normal reaction to hearing that would be something along the lines of: “how terrible, treating a child like that is absolutely disgusting”, w

hich I completely agree with. Was that my initial reaction, though? Not even close. The first thingI though when I heard the news was: “Are you kidding me? I have him on my fantasy team!”

Sports bring out our emotions in one of the strangest ways imaginable. There are many different theories describing why people get so attached to sports, but I tend to agree with one offered by Bartlett Giametti in “Take Time for Paradise”. According to Giametti, Sports are a sort of freedom. It is a way for people to completely escape the “real world”, even if only for a couple of moments. While watching sports, to the spectator, nothing matters except what is occurring on the field. For that time period, the escape from real life is one of pure happiness. Albeit a little odd that our team’s performance can dictate our personal happiness, I completely understand the emotions of fans because of the feeling of euphoria sports can provide.

Due to all the emotions fans invest sports, it is unsurprising that athletes are boosted to super celebrity status around the fan base of their team. As a diehard Detroit Pistons fan, I still remember meeting Chauncey Billups in a grocery store at 10 years old. At the time, there wasn’t a single movie star or political figure I would have rather seen than Chauncey. He was one of role models. Looking back, that makes me think a little bit.

Should sports figures really be viewed as role models?

According to Giametti, sports heroes in our lives literally become “godlike” because of feelings for fans they provide while being on the field. When a moment feels immortal to a fan, the player that provided that moment also becomes immortal. For this reason, these men and women become our heroes, both on the field and off.

But why? Why should the fact that a man can catch a ball better than others make him a role model in our lives?

Do I think it’s wrong to look up to athletes? Well, yes and no. Looking up to an athlete purely as a sports figure is fine to me. Miguel Cabrera is a great hitter? Awesome. Every time you hit a baseball push yourself to be more like him. But to look up to Miguel Cabrera as a person? Does it really seem right to have a role model with multiple DUIs? You tell me. He may be faster and physically superior, but that says absolutely nothing about his character. Besides an athlete’s abilities on the field, he really isn’t any different from you or me.

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Derek Jeter, The Captain

To be fair, lots of athletes live lives worth idolizing. Derek Jeter, for example, is a class act both on and off the field. He is known for being very chartable and an all around great person. Am I saying that Derek Jeter isn’t someone I look up to? Absolutely not. I admire Jeter, though, because his personal qualities are worth being revered.

In short, athletic celebrities aren’t really any different from you or me. Lots of very good people, and plenty of not so good people. Plenty of sports heroes live lives worth idolizing, but don’t hold them to that JUST BECAUSE they are talented in a sport. Look up to athletes for their character, not their abilities.

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3 thoughts on “Should We Really Idolize Professional Athletes? by Paul Seyferth

  1. I really enjoyed your post and agree that athletes should be judged as role models by their character rather than just their physical abilities. I also agree with your assessment of why people are so emotionally attached to sports according to Giametti, but I have more to add about why people view athletes as “godlike” or why people are so star struck when seeing athletes in person. One reason is the media. Sports fans who watch ESPN or listen to sports radio frequently are always hearing the same names and seeing highlights of the same superstars. During basketball season or even during free agency, you can’t turn on sportscenter without seeing or hearing something about LeBron. I think they’re fame and the attention they get is something people naturally look up to because to some degree, everyone wants the fame and fortune these athletes have. Another thing to consider is how much these athletes can do for a city. LeBron and Jonny Manziel coming to Cleveland this past Summer completely re-energized an entire city. People in Cleveland feel more pride to be living there because of these athletes that bring the city so much public attention. Even just the prospect of the Cavs winning a championship makes the city of Cleveland a closer community because it gives them something to rally around. I think fame, fortune, and the impact athletes have on communities are all additional reasons why athletes are seen as heroes.

    -Aaron Simon

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  2. I agree with the previous commenter. People should look up to others that are generally good human beings. The basis of what should be classified as a “hero” is someone who has amazing character and makes a difference to the world. I therefore agree that sport players should be judged by their character and not their abilities, however, people outside of our class forget to do this. The average sports loving person sees players as ‘gods’ and ‘heroes’, even if they have horrible character. Since the average person does not take into account the players character, I believe that people should be encouraged to not look up to sports players, because without this discouragement, people will continue to look up to sports players. I think that instead society should encouraged children and adults to look up to people who make an actual difference in the world, not just in the sports world.

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  3. I agree with your final sentence that people should “look up to athletes for their character, not their abilities.” I believe that some fans don’t look at the good qualities athletes have and just focus on how they play in the games. For example, when fans think of Lebron James, they automatically think of “King James.” The fans just focus on his stats in the game and the record of the team, but do they even think that Lebron has his own foundation? His mission is to help children through education and extra curricular activities, and to motivate them to go to school and graduate. Overall, I think people should not look up to sports figures just because of their athletic abilities, but instead familiarize themselves with the mission they serve outside the game.

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