From the 12th Chapter of Luke, verse 48, come these familiar words: “For to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Most of us are amazed or even dumbfounded by the gifts that have been bestowed upon this generation of professional athletes. We continue to marvel at the physical skill and wonder if we will ever see a ceiling to these gifts. Then, in this era where sports and entertainment reign supreme, we scratch our heads at each new contract that is signed. The numbers are staggering for the established stars, while even minimum wage in the major sports exceeds $400,000 per year. It is little wonder that parents and youngsters alike push to reach the pot of gold at the end of this proverbial rainbow.
The flip side, of course, comes from NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. Barkley’s comments years ago included: “I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on a basketball court. If it weren’t for my ability to dunk a basketball, most people would run in the opposite direction if they saw me walking toward them.” He later explained: “These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t, however, make you rich like me, rebound like me, and they certainly won’t make you handsome like me. They will only make you have shoes like me.” I’m not sure whether I agree with Barkley, but I certainly welcome the honest evaluation of himself.
I bring this up this week after reading of the exploits of the Florida Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez is, in my opinion, the most complete ball player in the National League. A five-tool player is rare. One who plays shortstop is typically unheard of. Last week, Ramirez was pulled from a game and then benched the next night after he booted a ball into the left field corner and nonchalantly pursued it as two runners scored. Florida Manager Fredi Gonzalez exchanged words with Ramirez before demanding he apologize to teammates.
Ramirez’s response was: “Gonzalez simply doesn’t understand the game.” He went on to say, “We got a lot of people here dogging it after ground balls and they don’t apologize.” Although this is a baseball issue, I’m sure Hanley Ramirez is a huge role model to a multitude of kids in south Florida.
I think Barkley’s contemporary Karl Malone sums it up best, though: “I don’t think it is our decision to make. We do not choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is to be a good role model or a bad one.”
Thanks to The Mailman for putting it in perspective.