Sportsmen as role models
Do international sportsmen have a duty to be good role models?
A character in one of Shakespeare’s plays once said, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Any of these could apply to the modern day sportsman. Many still argue about the nature of talent. Some claim that people are born to be sportsmen, while others say it is only through dedication and hard work that they achieve their abilities. Arguably though, it is not until their talents are acknowledged by the public that they truly have greatness thrust upon them.
With this acknowledgement of their “greatness” comes all the trappings of modern day celebrity: money, power, influence and seemingly unbeknown to many, responsibility. For better or for worse, like it or loathe it, modern sportsmen are the role models of children everywhere. These children will grow up admiring their heroes, devoting their lives to copying their every move, watching them, reading about them and wanting above all to be like them. Due to this fascination, particularly with the massive influence of the media in today’s society, it is more important than ever for these sportsmen to acknowledge the responsibility that has been thrust upon them.
In the past few months alone, there have been many instances of questionable behaviour from icons of the sporting world. From claims of racism on the football pitch, to wild stories from the rugby world cup, to betting scandals within the ‘whiter than white’ sport of cricket, sport stars of the present day are often mirroring the very worst aspects of society, a fact that the self righteous fury of the modern press has been quick to point out. It would be wrong for us to expect sportsmen to be saints. It would also be wrong for us to think that their behaviour is markedly different from the sportsmen they grew up watching, but with the all seeing eye of modern media it is a different world, and different standards must be expected.
Of course there is no obligation to sportsmen to be good role models. There are no prison sentences, no fines, no community service – unless of course their misdemeanours are illegal, as the Pakistani cricketers who fixed their games have found. Unless they break the law, it is entirely up to them as to whether or not they think their behaviour is appropriate. Furthermore, measuring the true impact their decisions have on their disciples is absolutely impossible. Some will rise against their idols, seeing them in a new light and condemning their actions. Others may think it is acceptable to live a life without consequence, copying their heroes’ actions, and using them as a shield when accused of the same crimes they have witnessed these demigods commit.
It is undeniable that the actions of sportsmen will influence the lives of those who worship them. Modern day sportsmen are the prophets or gods of today's secular world, and their actions are scrutinised by millions the world over, with a zeal more commonly seen in religious cults. Some may rail against it, denying their impact on these childrens' lives. Others may be aware of it but not respect it, while many may both be aware of it and respect it. Ultimately you do not choose whether you are a role model. All you can do is decide how to act when greatness is thrust upon you.