Role Models Aren’t Perfect, Nor Should They Be02.03.09
David Ramsey thinks that Michael Phelps not only betrayed himself, but he also apparently betrayed David Ramsey, as well as you, me, and everyone else who enjoyed watching Phelps swim in the Olympics last summer.
Give me a break.
We don’t know our sports heroes. We think we do. We kid ourselves. We watch them compete a few hours and believe we’ve formed a relationship.
We witness their outlandish physical gifts, and make illogical conclusions. After admiring physical triumph, we fill in the blanks about an athlete’s character.
Listen. Phelps didn’t beat his girlfriend. He didn’t knock out some guy at a bar who questioned the sexuality of his chosen profession of swimming. He didn’t steal from the poor. He didn’t support dogfighting.
He took a hit off a bong.
The notion of a perfect role model is not only old-fashioned, it’s down right unhealthy. Anyone who looks up to Michael Phelps and decides that, because of his incredible physical gifts, he is also an equally incredible and nearly perfect human being, is a fool.
David Ramsey says so himself: he filled in the blanks of Phelps’ character. Ramsey doesn’t personally know Phelps. He doesn’t call him a friend. He’s not a family member. To ascribe such lofty character traits to someone having only watched them via a television set swim in a pool several thousand miles away really only leaves you open for total disappointment. Because no one is perfect.
Not even someone with a perfect 8-for-8 Gold medals.
And why should we expect him to be? Perfection is unattainable. It’s time that we stop placing athletic role models on some high moral pedestal and allow them to be human, to be imperfect, to make mistakes. To do things that normal 23-year-olds do.
Because in the end, we all make mistakes. Instead of focusing on the fact that Phelps did do something illegal, let’s watch and see how he handles it and learns from it. He could’ve denied it and claimed ignorance. But, he didn’t. He admitted it and apologized immediately. To me, that’s the kind of moral fortitude that is not only commendable, but the kind that we should all focus on attaining. He took responsibility for his actions.
I don’t have children, but I hope that instead of wanting them to be perfect, I’ll encourage them to be responsible for themselves. Even when they’ve made a mistake. That’s the kind of lesson they should take from their role models.
If we require perfection of our role models, they’ll always end up being failures.