I recently stumbled upon Ben Denson’s response to my “Role Models” column. Sorry for barely acknowledging this; I don’t read The Sun as much as I probably should. Actually, that is a huge understatement, but that’s a column for another day. I just first want to say, Ben, I think that’s fucking awesome. Somebody actually reads my columns! This whole time I thought my columns were published only to be never heard from again. Mr. Denson, I am glad you disagree with my column. To quote the infamous words of Will Ferrell, only to be popularized by Jay and Ye, “its provocative-Gets the people going”. And because I love the idea of having some kind of epic columnist war, I have decided to offer my rebuttal. Listen up friends, I’m about to bust out the philosophy / English major in me.
The official definition of a role model given by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.” In your column, you say that kids at Cornell are not role models. I would argue that kids attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world definitely are role models. I mean I would hope to people back in my hometown–one of the least educated cities in America according to numerous rankings–that the behavior of a Cornell student is something to be imitated.
You then say that athletes are put “on a pedestal due to their extreme talent and determination to find perfection.” Again, I think this describes Cornell students perfectly. So by your criteria, students at Cornell are in fact role models.
Sure, students like me and you don’t have the massive twitter followings and jersey sales of today’s most popular athletes, but that certainly doesn’t mean that “no one cares”. To my two little nephews Liam and Anthony, I am their LeBron James. I am their Aaron Rodgers and their Mike Trout all rolled into one person. They look up to me and they would be shocked to find out that I have flaws (of which I have many). I am not a famous athlete, but they worship the ground I walk on as I was one. Even though their father tries to get them to watch baseball with him, they would rather play board games with me. They have made a conscious decision that I am the role model in their life.
Being a role model is a not a “side effect that comes with the fame of being a professional athlete”. Anybody can be a role model, because a role model is not dependent on the role model themselves, it is dependent on the people that look up to the role model. Just as my nephews made a decision to make me their role model, people have the ability to decide whether or not they think Kobe Bryant is a role model. Kobe didn’t sign some contract when he became a professional athlete that stipulated that he had to set a good example for kids across America. Kids just made the conscious decision that that’s what you should do. And that’s why. But don’t be surprised when he gets alleged of rape. He’s not getting paid millions of dollars to be your role model, he’s getting paid to be a basketball player.
I guess my overall point is that you should choose your role models carefully. I choose not to consider athletes role models, because I solely watch athletes for entertainment purposes. I probably have more role models at Cornell than I do in the professional sports realm. And just like I didn’t choose for my nephews to look up to me, athletes don’t choose for you to look up them either. It’s your decision. They didn’t sign up to be your role model; that was your decision.
Ben, we should definitely blaze up and listen to Swish when it comes out. Until then, my favorite athlete-role model is Matt Bonner.