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Insights and Observations

Henry's Highlights
Monday, April 24, 2006

By Henry Hinton

Real sports idols getting harder to find


7:00-9:00 a.m.

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My heroes growing up were Bobby Richardson, the great second baseman for the New York Yankees, and Roger Staubach, the All-American quarterback from Navy who went on to a stellar career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Looking back I wonder if I was drawn to them because they were great athletes or because they were great athletes who had the highest of morals.

Those two were easy to want to emulate. They seemed to be living their lives in such a way that it enhanced what they accomplished on the field.

I was a huge New York Yankees fan. Years later I was devastated to learn that Mickey Mantle was a woman-chasing alcoholic throughout most of his career. I guess you could say it opened my eyes. Truth is, it burst my bubble a bit.

In today’s post-911, Internet-driven, sometimes morally-bankrupt world, finding heroes in sports is tough to do. If the standard is someone who is both a great athlete and a great person, well, good luck.

I think that is one reason why college sports are so popular. It seems more innocent, somehow, to watch these young people compete and it seems easier to pull for them. Maybe it is because the corruption that seems to come from the pro sports world has not yet grabbed them.

Then, again, maybe they just have not had the white hot spotlight hit them... yet.

That brings me to the Duke lacrosse team. It remains to be seen if anyone is guilty of rape and sexual assault. But they are guilty of something. They are guilty at the very least of putting themselves in a situation that led to something much worse.

Remember what your parents told you about that? It is hard to be accused of something bad if you are careful not to put yourself in a position to be accused.

It may not be possible to always avoid controversy but in this particular case it almost seems as if the Duke players were asking for trouble.

Of course somebody is lying. Now it will be up to a jury to decide who. If it is the girl who claims she was raped, there has been a grave injustice done to the players. If the players are lying, they deserve to go to jail for a long time.

The Duke lacrosse team is no different than many other athletic programs at the amateur and professional level. What started out as a night of fun, albeit with a questionable agenda, turned out to be a night that has ruined lives.

It appears there was a culture intact that made this just another Saturday night for these guys. After previous warnings that his team was out of control, the team’s coach, Mike Pressler, was forced into resignation when this volcano erupted.

Now civil rights leaders want to call this an act of racism. The prosecutor is saying these are privileged, spoiled kids who were willing to perform the ultimate act of humiliation on a less fortunate young lady.

We may never know the real truth but a court of law will have to decide.

Meanwhile another little piece of our respect for sports dies.

The truth is that we can no longer hold athletes to a higher standard. Human frailty may even be enhanced by the pedestal that athletes enjoy.

It’s sad but true.

Where have you gone Bobby and Roger?

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This page updated 04/21/08 07:05 PM.

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