Perhaps I am mistaken to believe there was a time when athletes represented the best of the country. Perhaps I am wrong to remember the likes of Lou Gehrig, who served as an example to the youth of the day not only in terms of his work ethic on the field but also as moral guide. If there ever was a time when our athletes were spotless, free from temptation, it has long since passed. At least, it felt that way last week.
First there was Lance Armstrong, who finally admitted to years of doping. When I was younger I admired Armstrong, I even read his book. Part of his appeal, along with conquering incredible odds coming back from cancer, was that he was above using performance enhancers. When he wrote he would never do drugs, I believed him completely. That faith was shattered long ago. Last week he proved not only to be a cheater, but also a compulsive liar. I can’t believe any thing he says anymore.
There was also Manti Te’o, the Heisman finalist, who seemed to be a truly outstanding leader on the Notre Dame football team: after losing his girlfriend to Leukemia, Te’o led the team to the National Championship. Te’o was a genuinely good guy, a man of faith, who, it appeared, could do no wrong. It turns out Te’o’s girlfriend never existed. Whether he was in on it or a victim of a hoax is yet to be determined, but I am skeptical. Te’o may have been tricked, but he knows much more than he’s letting on to the public.
Two heroes, two role models were torn down from their pristine positions of fame last week. Two more athletes at the highest level were shown to be frauds. It’s disheartening to say the least.
But there is reason to maintain hope. Look at Adrian Peterson, who returned from an ACL injury to have one of the best seasons a running back in the NFL has ever had. Look at Alabama center, Barrett Jones, a 4.0 students in both the undergraduate and masters program and a consensus All-American. There are so many athletes to look up to and respect. One has to stay positive and remember no one makes the news for doing the right thing, for having a real girlfriend, or for not doping.
It’s just hard to watch how fast they fall. I hope the next generation of athletes will do the right thing, but who knows if Barrett will do drugs or if Adrian Peterson will fall in some scandal. There is nothing we can do but hope we pick the right people, heroes on the outside, to look up to. If Te’o and Armstrong have taught us a lesson, disheartening as that lesson may be, it’s that even those who look the most flawless on the surface can be hiding something. Sometimes it’s those we expect the most from that let us down the most.
Written by Harry Wexner’13