It was hard to miss the news about Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o last week.
In my own home, football is often Topic A, so the shocking revelation about Heisman Trophy runner-up Te’o got lots of play. Back in Chicago, my brother logged long hours working on Armstrong’s broadcast, so we all watched Oprah’s show with great interest.
As a cynical journalist, I’m skeptical about both stories. Did Armstrong really tell the whole truth this time, and if so, what was his goal? Was Te’o really the victim of a hoax, or did he invent his alleged girlfriend’s alleged death to gain sympathy before the Heisman voting?
Lance, Manti, and all of the alleged cheating, drug-taking, girlfriend-beating and dog-killing athletes really have no impact on my life. However, I now have two sons who long to become sports heroes themselves, and I fear the future.
In December, my high school senior learned he will play lacrosse at his first-choice college next fall. Ten days later, my college sophomore revealed that he’s itching to return to the gridiron, and started the ball rolling to change schools and suit up for football next fall.
I’m happy that they are happy, and I’m not terribly worried about injury, disappointment or their ability to balance schoolwork and sports. However, I’m petrified that they could become self-indulgent, entitled, troubled athletes like Armstrong and all the rest.
For the past two decades, I have tried to model honesty, integrity, empathy and self-control for my kids. Will those lessons carry over to the locker room?
As a parent, how do you reinforce the values that are so contrary to the American way? How do you keep a kid away from performance-enhancing drugs, when his coaches, doctors and teammates are pushing them, and they feel they can’t compete on a “level playing field” without them?
How do you stress that even if you’re a college jock, you still need to respect women? That as a role model for kids around the country, you need to behave well in all realms – not just on the field?
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