For many kids growing up, myself included, athletes are people who are looked up to. Many sports fan came name their favorite childhood player faster than they can state the name of their spouse. Why wouldn’t we look up to these people and see them as heroes? They impress us with their physical feats, and they bring our teams to heights that we thought were unimaginable. As a member of the sports staff at WSOU, Seton Hall University’s student-run radio station, I have been able to get a new perspective on who athletes really are, and what they stand for. I found something that I never thought imaginable: They’re just like you and me.
The athletes that we gawk at on television and read about in the paper online are people at the end of the day. They too fall asleep at night. The thing that makes them different than us is not only their natural physical gifts, but the platform that they stand on. If I was to stand next to Noah Syndergaard, and we were both asked about fastballs, who would you want the answer to come from? This platform that the athletes have positions them in a place where many of us would be frightened to be at. They have the ability to make a difference in the lives of millions of people, daily.
Professional athletes are able to make an impact on a number of things. Of course they can contribute to charity, or show up at a school to read to a classroom. These things are awesome, and we always see the Mets sponsor events like that. There is an impact that they can make on the children that are simply just watching them however. Famous Pastor Charles Swindoll was once quoted as saying “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.”
This is a quote that should be taken to heart by athletes everywhere. Many children, like myself, grew up to the voice of a famous broadcaster like Gary Cohen or Vin Scully. They also grew up watching and following the players that took the field. The behavior of players, and their mannerisms can be seen throughout all levels of their respective sport. A prime example of this is the bat flip. I will remain impartial on my opinion of the bat flip, but there is no doubt that it can be seen at lower levels of baseball.
This of course, provides opportunity for professional athletes to become great role models, and to serve a higher purpose than to just be an athlete. Curtis Granderson, known for his hustle on the field, also works his tail off to make sure he gives back. His organization, Grand Kids, has raised 17.5 million meals for families and children in need, and has served over 34 cities. His dedicated philanthropy shows kids and those looking up to Granderson that they can serve a higher purpose in life than just doing a job.
Of course, this scope that is placed on professional athletes reveals the worst sometimes. We see players like Jenrry Mejia, who fail multiple drug tests and show a lack of a moral compass. The risk in our impressionable populations watching is that they will see the Mejia’s instead of the Granderson’s. It is an additional responsibility that the professional athletes carry to be responsible for their actions. Yes, every human is responsible for what they do on a daily basis. The professional athletes carry double, as what they do not only impacts them, but those that are looking up to them. So past the performance on the field, possibly the hardest part of being a professional athlete is living under a microscope that never loses focus.