Sports era’s are defined not only by their players, coaches, and upper management, they are defined also by popular culture and the ways and beliefs of society during that particular time period. We needn’t look far from our own homes to see this in action. However, if one is looking for what is referred to as the golden age of sport, it would be difficult to find this given the way society has changed.
In the early days of professional sports in America, there were no such things as , salary caps, lockouts/strikes over TV money, or performance enhancing drug scandals. In many ways sports and the figures that made them up reflected society – a simpler way in a simpler time. Even after two world wars and a conflict in Korea, we as a nation knew we had it good. Not that I was around for any of this, but the people who were have clear memories of a time gone by, and a world that will never be the same.
Nowadays we could easily argue that even with a recession and being on the brink of a depression economically, we live in a world and era that is second to none as far as our sports are concerned. With billion dollar stadiums, unprecedented access to players and coaches, and 24 hour cable channels dedicated to specific sports leagues it doesn’t get much better than now to be a fan. Thankfully we have an outlet like sports to distract us from the post-9/11 era that we live in. It’s hard to fathom what people of my generation will say twenty to thirty years from now. Will they admit that it was a simpler time just as their parents had done decades before them? Maybe sports will be the only thing that can connect certain people of different generations in the future, just the same as they did throughout the years that our ancestors cheered for their teams.
With all of that considered, there remains the age-old question: Are athletes, either amature or professional, role models to children and young adults?
It would be easy to say in a nearly forgotten time, Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame left fielder Ted Williams, possibly the best hitter the game of baseball has ever seen, was a perfect role model. With the exception of maybe Pat Tillman, we never witness well-known athletes taking a large role in the military. Soldiers in the military are undoubtedly people we can all look up to, but Williams had another side. Williams made no secret about how much he despised the media. He even took exception to the fans and how they cheered. Williams was particularly brash toward the United States government for being recalled into active naval aviation, even though he had been inactive in flying for over eight years.
Flash forward to today. Charles Barkley not so long ago made sure he said loudly that he was not a role model, and rightfully so. Then there is New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. A player that has accomplished what he has in such a small amount of time, and done it after basically rising from the ashes of his NBA career is nothing short of amazing. Is Lin a role model? I think in many context’s one would have to say yes. What if he reverts back to not being a consistent NBA player and fades away as fast as he shot to stardom? Would he still be considered a role model that teaches “you can accomplish anything”, or a figure that was fun for a while, but flashed in pan?
I don’t think you can be wrong either way. He has been an inspiration to the Asian community not just in the U.S., but the world abroad. If Jeremy Lin is to be successful as a role model, he is first expected to be accomplished (which he is in many aspects even in this short time). Whether he is able to maintain his current level of play remains to be seen, but his star shines brightly over Gotham like the Batman signal. No matter what happens from here on out, Lin’s story will be one for the ages, and that story will give us hope that athlete’s can truly be role models for one and all.