Deflategate: The fallacy of holding athletes as role models

Tom Brady Side-Steps Wells Report

College Contributor Network

Last week, the Wells Report came out and told football fans what most of us already knew, Tom Brady and the Patriots knowingly cheated, using under-inflated footballs. When this news broke, many fans had the same passionate reactions we see in any sports controversy. Some were shocked and called for the revocation of titles, fines, and the like. Then you have others rushing to their defense at all costs. In the craziness of speculation and heated online debates, we need to realize, these are just athletes. When we put sports figures on a moral pedestal for their athletic ability, we are only setting everyone up for disappointment.

In a time of year when we honor Mother's Day, Father's Day, Nurse's Day, National Teacher's Day and several others, we need to realize that there are many people around us more worthy of the idol status that we afford famous athletes. We all love sports, and there are many great things to love about them. They're the great unifier, they're a distraction from the real world. They are entertaining, fun and, for some, a big part of our lives.

But the athletes, coaches, general managers and sports figures are just people. As fans, we are guilty of lifting these people to a level above normal humans. We create false idols of athletes and sports figures because they have attained greatness in their field. But so have doctors, judges, teachers, and hundreds of other professionals. And we don't hold them under a microscope, judging their every move, and commenting on it.

This is neither a defense, nor a condemnation of the Patriots, or any other sports figure. As public figures and members of public organizations they are held to a higher standard as representatives and role models, but that does not make them immune to the same human plights we all face. We are largely responsible for creating this cycle. Starting at a young age we put excellent athletes in a class above most. This dates back to ancient times. But in this day and age we start buying their jerseys, their merchandise, following them on Twitter, and monitoring their every move as soon as we see their first grand slam.

From basketball, where we start ranking players in seventh grade AAU, to football where college recruits are treated like high rollers on campus, we as a sports community are making these athletes larger than life at a younger and younger age.

It is inevitable that highly successful athletes become public figures and to some degree, role models. But they are not the only role models in our society, and for the most part, they have achieved little outside of athletics to garner the kind of aura that surrounds them.

So we put these people on a platform, we watch their every move, buy their bobblehead dolls, support the products they endorse, and it's all well and good. Until it's not. Until they turn out to be adulterers, cheaters, liars or worse. All of a sudden this perfect picture we've created is ruined. We are inconveniently reminded that these 'superhuman' caricatures we've crafted are nothing more than that. That we have created this false perfection that only sets us up for disappointment.

Athletes, and on a greater scale all celebrities, are people just like the fans, the media, and every other person in the world. They have triumphs, and yes they have downfalls. They make mistakes. The difference is, we have placed them under the very microscope that then magnifies their mistakes much to our great dismay.

This vicious cycle continues in a mutually detrimental repetition, and when stories like that of Tom Brady and the Patriots breaks, those fans who have put Brady on a pedestal find themselves let down once again. Brady's humanity serves as an inconvenient truth to those who have only themselves to blame for the illusion they've been operating under. The illusion that extreme athletic ability equates to inherent personal ethics and outstanding humanitarian qualities.

Sports are a fantastic entity. They can be a vehicle for social change, they unite us, bring us joy and a sense of belonging. Keep watching, keep cheering, and by all means keep reading sports stories. And don't forget that there are some figures in sports that are not only great athletes, but great role models. But for the most part, athletes are just like the rest of us. They will fail, they will err, and they will come back from those mistakes.

When looking for role models, we should look to the real life MVP's all around us. Parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, religious and community leaders. When we put our faith in someone based on their merits rather than their talents, we set all of us up for success.

Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports
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