How often do we hear about athletes being labeled heroes or role models? Even worse, think of all the instances when players referred to their upcoming Sunday as going to war. Kellen Winslow Jr. is still one of my all-time favorite examples. I guess it’s just weird to me that having grown up in San Diego County, 30 minutes South of Camp Pendleton, he still didn’t understand that there are millions of individuals (in reference to our American military personnel, Fire Rescue, Police, etc.) braver than he is; many of whom actually know what going to war means. I don’t think most athletes deserve the hero title because most athletes will never do what Pat Tillman did for our country. At least Drew Brees took the time and made the effort to spend time with our troops. Now go ahead and jump across the country to Brevard County, home of Patrick Air Force Base, and you’ll find yourself in Kelly Slater’s neck of the woods.
If you’re looking for the connection between Winslow Jr. and Slater, outside of being athletes, there really isn’t one. The reason I bring up Kelly Slater is because I do believe that athletes can be role models. Unfortunately, the surfing world is one full of stereotypes and misnomers. Which is why we need to then refer to the old adage, “it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it”. Yes, Kelly has had an extraordinary career (11 titles and counting), but it’s his actions out of the water that really personify who he is as a person. I am by no means saying K.S. is perfect, because he’s human just like the rest of us – sort of. However, Kelly plays guitar and is a darn good golfer – just North of scratch from what I’ve heard. He chooses not to drink or do drugs, instead focusing on a more organic lifestyle with regular yoga in the mix. You’ll even score some pretty good recipes if you follow his Twitter account. While I don’t personally know Kelly, I think what makes him a viable role model is a sense of responsibility that you find in good parents and people in general. Speaking of Twitter, I guarantee having a teenage daughter influenced his decision to speak out against bullying in a recent tweet about an incident involving a girl that committed suicide after being bullied and raped. But you know what, teenage bullying and suicide aren’t just stories to be found in the news. They’re a very real issue that occur daily and need all the awareness they can generate. Whether or not it’s intentional, Kelly has a way of responsibly using social media and I can only hope our youth, among others, recognize this.
I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with Chad Johnson tweeting every 5 minutes. I think it brings a human element to a digital world. I’m also not a parent and I don’t always understand what parents go through (although I do get a kick out of reading CrappyPictures.com). One thing I do know is that the world can never have enough role models responsibly convey their message. With that being said, choices are something we all face and maybe the next time your child is confronted with a difficult one, they’ll ask themselves, “what would Kelly do?”