Hope for the modern-day sports idol

A couple of weeks ago, Yankees baseball player Derek Jeter broke his ankle.

Suddenly Mr. Dependable, the man known as Captain Clutch, was left writhing on the infield dirt in the Bronx.

It was in that moment that I realized something. I had just watched the last of a dying breed go down. The superstar athlete with a heart of gold. The good looking guy who dominated his sport and garnered national love.

The modern-day sports idol was dead. And frankly, I felt empty.

I can remember growing up with an idolatry of certain athletes that bordered on worship. It seemed that there were so many to choose from.

I stuck my tongue out when I played driveway basketball like Jordan. Anytime I would field a ball to my backhand in baseball, I always tried to execute the signature jump-throw that made Jeter famous. But there was one guy who it seemed like everybody loved above all else: Ken Griffey Jr. The smile, the hustle, the looping swing that sent baseballs screaming out of ballparks into near orbit. I never wanted it to end.

But all good things come to an end.

In the years since I first grew to worship sports, I’ve seen too many of my idols destroy their own image.

Recently Lance Armstrong was found guilty of what the U.S. Anti Doping Agency called “the most sophisticated doping program” they had ever seen. Does this make any of his charitable work for his Livestrong Foundation any less impressive? No. Does it tarnish his legacy? Yes.

Look around sports. Name one star that’s universally liked. Lebron could’ve been, but instead decided to alienate 90 percent of his fan base that doesn’t live in Miami. Tiger had a chance to be before crashing his Escalade and sleeping with every cocktail waitress between New York and Las Vegas.

However, there is hope. There appears to be a select few, a guild of young sport stars, fresh of face and with clean police records, willing and able to become sports idols in the truest sense of the word.

I’m talking about young athletes like Kevin Durant and Mike Trout, athletes barely out of high school with baby faces and superb talent, who have the ability to transcend their respective sports and become national icons who are universally loved.

So let this be an open letter to these select few young men:

Kevin Durant, please, don’t ever shoot your gun off into your wife’s house. Don’t gamble. If ever you’re a free agent, watch Lebron’s ESPN special “The Decision” and do the exact opposite. Mike Trout, if anyone ever asks you to take steroids, don’t take them.

And if Viagra calls looking for a spokesman, have some respect and block the call.


Robert Pursell is a senior majoring in journalism.

November 7, 2012


Robert Pursell

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