Sunday Mail Column 19-9-10: The one about hero spotting
Another week, another slew of sports star scandals. Two weeks into September and we’ve had allegations of match fixing, admissions of infidelity, homophobic remarks, the alleged flashing of genitals, admittance of drug use and charges of theft. Have I missed anything? Oh yes, the old “defecating on a hotel room floor” allegation.
And all this would be funny (okay, not really) if so many kids didn’t completely hero-worship these people. But they do. Case in point. Earlier this week I visited an all-girls high school to talk about tribes and resilience and gut instinct and a fifteen year old indicated to me that she adored a certain “bad boy” footballer. A footballer who has been reprimanded in the past for lewd behaviour and for doing things like, um, urinating on nightclub windows. A player who is rumoured to have taken a naked photo of a woman without her permission and distributed it. A player who is currently being investigated over allegations of flashing his genitals at a female. (Just makes you want to sing Wind Beneath My Wings, doesn’t it?)
Anyway this guy still has fans. STILL. HAS. FANS. Teenagers who think he’s “awesome”. It’s enough to send me into the foetal position muttering “happy place, happy place.”
I used to think the problem was we went hero spotting in the wrong locations. Like on sporting fields. I mean, just because someone can run really, really fast or kick a ball really, really far or they’re like “totally hot” – doesn’t mean they’re worthy of our admiration. The same goes for Hollywood. Okay, so your favourite star is good at acting and was really believable as that kleptomaniac-deaf-Irish-nun turned stripper but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily role model worthy. Sure, admire their acting. But don’t be surprised when we see pictures of them with a lampshade on their head doing lines of coke off their co-star’s stomach.
But I’ve changed my mind. I think that stance tars all sports stars and actors (and musicians, for that matter) with the same brush, which frankly, isn’t fair. Role models can be found everywhere. In the spotlight and not.
My point is we need to teach our kids (and ourselves) to be fussier. More selective. If someone is going to be “hero-worthy” they need to be more than just a great back rower. Or lead singer. Or actor. Or scientist. Or doctor. They need to be a great person. Someone who gives back to the community, who treats their family and their profession with respect. Someone who shares our values. Someone who is well, toilet-trained.
Notice, I’m not saying our role models need to be perfect. We all stuff up. We all say the wrong thing at times, or maybe tweet the wrong thing. And putting pressure on our heroes to never-put-a-foot-wrong just isn’t fair. But there’s a big difference between say, Spencer Pratt and Hugh Jackman. Before you put someone’s picture on your wall, make them earn their spot.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.