If you were in playing sports growing up, most of us had our professional heroes or idols that we may have modeled ourselves after.
For me it was former Braves’ player Dale Murphy. That man could do no wrong in my eyes on the field. He was my hero back then, not only for the way he played the game but also for the morals and standards he possessed off the field. When I played little league baseball I quickly acquired the nickname “Murph” by my teammates. They knew how much I idolized this man as I even wore the number 3 several years and I had that nickname written under the bill of my cap.
During these times of professional sports, it would be hard for me to pick out an athlete who I would want to attempt to model myself after. That’s of course if I was still playing baseball. What’s happened to those athletes we used to idolize when we were little?
It now seems that some of today’s athletes are spoiled by the idea of “It’s all about me.” One comes to mind right away, not to mention names, but he holds the season homerun record and loves steroids. Those athletes who feel the need to use performance-enhancing drugs are ruining our favorite pastime. Whatever happened to the saying we learned when growing up and playing sports? The T-shirts that we wore under our jerseys that read “Do it for the team,” “There’s no I in team,” And those players who would repeatedly say in interviews, “Whatever I can do to help my team win.”
Those sayings have seemed to be replaced by the attitudes of some athletes today who only care about how to pad their wallets and how to make “themselves” look the best. Don’t get me wrong. I do know that there are still some model athletes playing today that still play with the attitudes of those like Murphy. I can recall during the final years of Murph’s playing days, he took a $2.3 million pay cut to join the Colorado Rockies. A huge paycut to play? Do we hear that anymore? Now we sit back and read about guys like Alex Rodriguez who is at a salary of $32 million and Derek Jeter $14.7 million. I mention those two players, not just because I despise the Yankees, but mainly because they are two of those guys who in my eyes, have the “I” attitude. Just think if I made that kind of money I could afford to put ketchup and mustard on my hotdog and wouldn’t ask for onions because I would be satisfied with what I had.
Part of Dale Murphy’s reasoning for a pay cut was the fact that his career was winding down, but for the love of the game, he did what he had to in order to still play. We don’t hear too much of that today in the world of sports. Imagine there are guys that have made millions of dollars year after year in the big leagues today still thinking they need more after passing the peak of their career.
Just look at the upcoming lockouts of football and basketball. Did we ever hear of lockouts back when we were growing up? I can remember the baseball strike in 1994 and what it did to the game and fans. I can remember the negative outlooks it gave us towards the players. When play resumed, the league had to do all they could to lure fans back to the parks because the selfishness of the players and owners. Now if the lockouts of football and basketball stay true to form, what will it do to the fans? Then again, are all those guys thinking about the fans or are they just worried about being pampered? I think they are forgetting exactly who has a large part of paying their salaries. So what happens if we as fans have a lockout of our own and stayed home instead of paying at the parks?
Thankfully there are still some Murph’s around in professional sports. I recall another former Braves’ player who I got a chance to meet in 1996. John Smoltz, a guy who was part of the Braves’ 90’s run. I had the chance to meet Smoltz that year when I was using my press pass to get in the dugout for batting practice. Although I talked briefly with Smoltz, his mannerisms reminded me so much of what I knew about Murphy. He was very talkative despite the fact that we both knew our conversation wasn’t related to a newspaper interview. I can’t say that much for the bat boy that tried to throw me out despite of my pass.
I won’t leave out one other player; Madison County’s own Jake Westbrook. Those of us who know Jake and have followed his career know that he falls in the same mold as Smoltz and Murphy. He conducts himself as a team player. Jake may not have accomplished what Murphy or Smoltz did in their careers as far as awards go yet, but we can always say that his mannerisms have made us hometown people proud.
Money figures and attitudes have changed the world of sports and the players our kids see as role models in sports. Our kids already have enough negative influences in today’s world. Let’s hope the selfishness and “It’s all about me” attitudes from those athletes who are ruining the game, won’t filter down to our youth and school sports. Let’s hope sports can be played pure and played for the love of the game.
I guess that’s what makes watching sports events like the Little League World Series and even college sports more enjoyable to watch. They aren’t getting paid to play, yet.
Dallas Bordon is the former sports editor for The Comer News/Danielsville Monitor.