Sometimes Role Models Are Athletes

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Grant Desme: Is he looking heavenward?

The two most popular posts on this blog are variants of one common theme.

Athletes as Role Models.

It makes sense. I enjoy sports, I am passionate about education and I love the moral tension created by appreciating both of those areas of life. It appears that people like reading about it as well.

Learn about what I think by reading these posts (in order of popularity):

Tim Tebow’s Pro-Life Superbowl Ad is Heartwarming and Reckless (Top post on this blog thanks to Deadspin)

Athletes as Role Models? (Second most popular post on this blog thanks to Steve Mason and Kaplan’s Korner)

The Eye Of The Tiger (Fans)

Ron Artest Is Going To The Lakers | What Do I Think?

To summarize: My opinion is that athletes are just athletes. They excel one general area of life, competitive athletic ability, and that is the only thing worth looking up to them for. One can admire work ethic, focus, quick thinking, pure athleticism of their favorite athletes, but to learn about sportsmanship, common courtesy or morality from athletes is asinine. That is not what they are known for, and usually it is for a reason. There are much more appropriate role models for those things and our job is to look to those people as role models and not athletes. When it comes to children, parents must teach their children who their role models should be as opposed to letting athletes teach their kids about morals and ethics.

There is one general exception. When an athlete clearly excels in another area of life and has experience in that area of life then even the athlete can become a role model. Or more precisely, the person is a role model who happens to be an athlete.

Take Tim Tebow for example. Tebow has spent signficant time and effort doing good work and rising above his athletic stardom and become a star of his religion. He clearly has a set of morals that guide his life and is more than just an athlete. He is a missionary and an athlete. Tebow is a worthy role model who happens to be an athlete and being a succesful athlete has given him a greater audience. Tebow’s greater audience gives him more oportunity to be that role model and that is a good thing. Tebow is using his star power to express his opinion on abortion. We can agree or disagree with the message but Tebow is a messenger whose words carry some weight. As a role model, Tebow’s fame as an athlete goes a long way to increasing his influence and impact.

Recently, another athlete who could have been just like Tebow in that respect bowed out of competitive sports. Oakland Athletics prospect Grant Desme left his baseball dreams behind to enter the priesthood. Projected as an above average Major League player, Desme bows out of the game he loves, for the God he loves more. Desme was going to be a good baseball player. But now he hopes to be a great priest. Instead of using his baseball related fame to teach and be that rare athlete worth treating like a role model, Desme leaves sports and is devoting his life to his religion.

Two athletes with higher moral standards and two different approaches.

Who will have a greater impact, Tebow or Desme?

Which is the better path? The athlete who uses his fame to be a super role model to millions of adoring fans? Or the former athlete who gave it all up to pursue a “higher calling”?

Tebows audience will be much bigger. But Desme’s potential is greater because he can devote more time to personal growth.

I find this question very interesting. What do you think?

  • Who will have a greater impact, Tebow or Desme?

    Which is the better path? The athlete who uses his fame to be a super role model to millions of adoring fans? Or the former athlete who gave it all up to pursue a “higher calling”?

    Good questions, but very hard to answer.