Why we shouldn't care about sports stars
Former England midfield star Paul Gascoigne is back in hospital, getting treatment for chronic alcoholism.
Worried friends and supporters have once again bank-rolled the fallen footy player's $30,000 stay in a prestigious US detox facility.
Alcoholism is one of life's mysteries. For some, booze is a way to lubricate social interactions, and alleviate the grinding boredom of their small lives measured out with scotch. For others, booze is a means to an end; bad medicine leading to solitude, despair and early death.
This is where Paul Gascoigne has fallen, on the wrong side of the ledger.
Why do some sports stars seem susceptible to the demon drink? The list of casualites is indeed a long one. But we shouldn't be worried about it, because sport stars shouldn't be held up as role models who we should all emulate.
I was disabused of this notion when I was a kid. My mum took me to meet my football hero, Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool's midfield maestro, who was appearing at the opening of a sport's shop in Blackpool.
Almost crushed by the large crowd outside the shop, we were plucked from the melee by concerned security staff, and ushered towards our hero.
When I met him, I realised I had been conned. Sure, Dalglish could kick a ball about, but he was a massive disappointment. I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but I found a boring stone-faced man, sitting wordlessly behind a small table, mindlessly signing football paraphernalia for his adoring fans. After he signed my footy the guards ushered us quickly down the stairs and out in to the cold grey day.
Since then I have questioned why we anyone would hold up any athlete as a role model.
Some good did come of my meeting with Dalglish, I loved my Dad even more. He seemed to me a much better role model than any sports star ever could be. So what if he had a pot-belly and could barely kick a ball?
Often athletes are mind-numbingly dull people. In fact, their chosen craft requires it. In order to succeed at their chosen sport, they have to repeat ad-nauseum the same mindless routines for decades on end. Eventually those who excel at this masochistic mania are, by definition devoid, of personality and oblivious to crushing boredom.
These are not the kind of people our kids should be emulating. Instead of false idols let's start celebrating ordinary men and women who raise their kids, pay their taxes, and get on with it.
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