I’m a sports fan. I’ll admit it, “Hello my name is Jason and I like sports.” Baseball is my favorite, followed by football then basketball. I’m also a bigger fan of professional sports than college. My boys ask me all the time, “Who you going for?” “I don’t care son.” “Why not?” “Cuz I just like to watch the game.”
I like to read about the games during the week and follow some of the stories. Every week I find myself asking, is this TMZ or ESPN? It seems like every week an athlete is in trouble for breaking the law, hurting someone, drunk driving, or cheating (aka steroids).
Inevitably, these stories come up during the game too from commentators. And when these stories come up, the question isn’t will they, but when will they mention them being a role model or hero. “They’re not setting a good example.” “Kids look up to them.” “He’s the kind of guy your kids can emulate.”
Well Mr. or Ms. Sports Commentator I have news for you. I tell my kids these people are athletes, not heroes or role models. . . . Yeah, I’m probably going against society on this, but you know . . . that’s okay.
Remember when Lt. James Gordon tells his kid regarding Batman, “He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.” Yeah, the punch line of a sorrowed man who respects the man now villainized by public persona. I love it . . . but not buying into it.
Athletes are just athletes. Yes they make a lot of money. Yes I know we don’t think it right for entertainers to make more than educators. But this is the world we live in. This world says, hitting a ball and tackling someone is role model material.
Now I certainly appreciate their hard work; marvel at their ability to hit the ball (hitting a baseball is tough — making a 3ft putt consistently is tougher); and respect what they do. But none of those abilities makes them a role model or hero.
So when my kids ask, I simply say, those are people who sacrificed a lot and God made talented enough to reach the pros. But I never tell them they are heroes or role models. Why? Simple. Because Jesus Christ is the object of our worship.
He is the hero. Plain and simple. God redeems people and conforms us into the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18). If God is working to conform us into His Son’s image, then why on earth would I point them to an athlete and say, emulate him? That sounds more like idolatry to me.
This actually becomes helpful. “Dad, why did that athlete do that?” “Because son, even highly talented people athletes are sinners in need of saving grace.” See I don’t have to worry about hiding my kids from them. I just teach them who Christ, man, and the world is. Then help develop their discernment.