Finding a role model in sports

 Flip on a baseball game and you’ll see players slamming the bat into the ground on a called strike three. Switch over to the NBA finals and you’ll watch players running around the court, protesting with every inch of their body what a horrible call the referee just made. Then there’s our own president uninviting the Super Bowl champions to the White House when a big celebration on the back lawn was just a couple days away.
I’m not sure what kind of message all of this is sending to our youth, but I’ve got to be honest, it makes me very uncomfortable. And the frustrating part is, all I can do is shake my head in disbelief and hope they’re not paying attention.
A role model is defined by Webster as “someone worthy of imitation.” In my mind, it’s how you would want your son or daughter to act under pressure or during everyday life.
If you’re talking past and present Husker coaches, Tom Osborne obviously heads the list, with Mike Riley and John Cook not too far behind. Scott Frost has a long way to go in his career but he’s certainly off to a great start and is very well respected, as is veteran softball coach Rhonda Revelle.
As for Bo Pelini, we’ve certainly had those conversations.
Irregardless, what used to be the norm now seems to be the standard. Opposing team players are often put through the gauntlet on the way to the locker room, berated by some of the people in the stands who simply need to show more respect.
I’ve heard some of it up close. Real close. Some past Colorado football games in Lincoln come to mind when photographers on the field had to dodge things being thrown from the stands.
And is it any wonder why officials are escorted in and out by security guards?
Just a week ago, I flipped on YouTube and watched the 1981 Nebraska-Oklahoma football game played in Norman. Tom Osborne versus Barry Switzer, the Huskers headed to the Orange Bowl that year for what would play out to be a national championship game with Clemson. Back then there was the role model Osborne losing eight of nine matchups against Switzer, the son of a bootlegger, a coach who wasn’t your typical college coach but one who certainly enjoyed unparalleled success.
Osborne was confident but unassuming. Switzer was usually overconfident and brash.
Former NBA great Charles Barkley once said, “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” He even turned it in to a commercial for Nike.
The point about athletes, from high schoolers on up to the pros, is that because they are competing out on a field, on the court or on TV, like it or not, they do become instant role models. People pay money to watch, and how they act does matter, especially to children.
That influence is something that can’t be measured.
And don’t forget, sports jerseys are popular items that companies make millions of dollars of profits from, boys and girls wearing their favorite player’s number around home, to games or even to school.
It used to be youngsters wanted to become president when they grew up. Anymore, I’m not so sure.
I can only hope that our kids are indeed paying attention, and that who they see in particular is someone we all can be proud of.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at

Rate this article: 
No votes yet