They (Still) Aren’t Role Models

~Lorenzo Patrick (@smartspeak89)

Charles Barkley said it best over 20 years ago, but it bears repeating today, “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” Whether or not you agree that pro athletes should still be mindful that people are still watching them on and off the field, like the original article suggests, his main point still rings true after all these years.

“Just because I dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

That point needs to be repeated today, of all days, because of the two men who gained headlines yesterday: Peyton Manning and CC Sabbathia. These were two of the greatest individual performers in the respective sports in the 2000s. At one point, the poster boys for being great on and off the field…mostly because nothing happened off the field. Manning officially announced his retirement yesterday, and will be remembered as one of the greatest pro quarterbacks of all time. Sabbathia wrote in detail about his struggles with alcohol, while hoping to return to All-Star form for the Yankees this season.

Peyton Manning has just about every single season and career NFL passing record there is. He’s been to four Super Bowls, won two, and has been the ultimate pitchman for just about every product sold during its commercials. He’s humble, affable and doesn’t take himself too seriously. “He [came] back to a hero’s welcome in Indianapolis,” Bob Kavitz wrote of Manning in the USA Today a few years ago, “and it’s not all because of the things he did on the football field. He’s done everything here [in Denver] he did in Indianapolis. Signing autographs. Calling children in hospitals. Hosting Make-A-Wish kids. Reaching out to the people who were victimized by the fires and floods in Colorado. The list goes on and on.”

Manning also has been recently alleged tied to HGH, as well as allegedly resting where he shouldn’t.

CC Sabbathia laid his soul bare in his The Players’ Tribune piece. “I never actually wanted to stop drinking,” he says at one point..”And I didn’t think I needed to. I thought I had everything under control. But last October, while sitting all alone in a hotel room, I finally accepted the reality that I had been avoiding for so long. I need help.” Though he’s still on the road to recovery, Sabbathia goes on to say the soul searching he’s done during rehab – and dread of what happened to Lamar Odom – will go a long way to keeping him sober. Him, of course, being a Cy Young Award winning six-time All-Star.

Generally, it would be easy to chide these men for not being examples of “what it means to be a role model” on and off the play field. It’s even easier to look for a “redemption” story. However, let’s say it again:

“[They aren’t] paid to be a role model.”

Ultimately, they both are, or in Manning’s case, were paid to be great at what they do. As fans, our joy/anger should be directly tied to that. Should the allegations be true, Manning won’t be automatically forgiven because of the “good will” he’s accrued over the years. As good, even great, as Sabbathia was at his prime, you’ll always wonder if he could have been even better without the alcohol. However, if we truly learned anything from both of these men, it’s that athletes are people too. Fame, fortune, and success can’t erase shortcomings. Ultimately, that fact, no matter how many times it’s repeated, is worth more than the hero’s facade destroyed in its wake.


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