May 18, 2013
Role Models for the Id
Posted on Apr 25, 2010
By Mark Heisler
Of course, if former greats didn’t sell themselves as the boys next door, there was no one bidding for boy-next-door stories back then.
In the ’80s when Michael Jordan shattered all commercial barriers, it suddenly became important to be a role model, which meant ... ka-ching!
For all Charles Barkley’s indiscretions, he’s admirable for never copping to the Hypocritical Imperative, although he liked getting free money, too.
Barkley’s announcement “I’m no role model” is still debated by athletes.
In other words, it made him a role model for saying he wasn’t one.
Nike just did a commercial with Tiger staring somberly into the camera, recalling lessons from his father. That was tasteless even by the standards of the unapologetic Swoosh.
Is it a coincidence or just ironic that palling around with Nike stars Jordan and Barkley started Woods’ relatively innocent head spinning on its axis?
The next thing you know, another generation was going straight to hell and Billy Payne was back looking for a role model to believe in.
(I’d pick a dead one—preferably one who passed away 50 years ago. By now it should be safe.)
Unfortunately, fallen sports stars aren’t the only threat to our kids. There’s ... everything else.
When my 16-year-old daughter was a toddler, I started her out on the classics—Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys—quizzing her if one of their songs came on the radio in the car.
We filled her little head with political correctness, to the point of referring to Winnie the Pooh, “a bear of very little brain,” according to his creator, A.A. Milne, as “a bear of little experience.”
When she was about 10, I heard her tell a friend, “I don’t get rap.”
I thought, “Yessssss!”
About a week later she got it, up to and including Snoop Dogg and Eminem.
She now has a bare-chested John Cena poster on the wall and loves the MTV reality shows, another version of horn-dog sports culture, with real-life kids.
If I asked my daughter what the impact of the fall of Tiger or Big Ben on her was, she wouldn’t know what I meant, before or after I explained it.
I should add, she’s a great kid, does wonderfully in school and, except for her taste in popular culture, shows no sign of emulating MTV reality lifestyles.
In any case, it’s better to raise your kids yourself, inasmuch as they consent to being raised, rather than count on icons for help.
I understand that’s the way they did it in the old, old days when they got it right, sometime between the abolition of slavery and the invention of TV.
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