It’s no secret to the students and staff of my school that I am a Boston sports fan. When I moved to New England from the midwest as a Junior in High School, I segued from being a St. Louis Cardinals devotee to a rabid Sox fan in the span of about two months. The passion of Boston sports drew me in as a teenager.
The fast pace of life kept me partially away from the sports world throughout college and in the early years of my marriage, but as soon as my three kids were sucked into the Boston sports scene, I was drawn back in as well. In this millennium so far there have been three New England Patriots Super Bowl wins, two Red Sox World Series Championships, a Bruins Stanley Cup, and a Celtic NBA Championship. It has been a great source of fun for my family as well as my school community.
I have been Principal at Harold Martin School for every one of these sports events and students and staff have celebrated these great accomplishments together. I have discussions with students about players and the games from the night before. We wear shirts with athlete’s names emblazoned on our backs and my office is strewn with Boston sports memorabilia. Students truly look up to these athletes as we pretend that sports megastars have meritorious qualities beyond their gross motor skills.
This week we discovered that one of our Patriot football heroes has been accused of unspeakable crimes with evidence that appears irrefutable. The accused, Aaron Hernandez, is a supremely talented tight end – I’ve even had him on my Fantasy Football team – but it is likely that he is a murderer. It was known that he had a troubled past, but after recently signing a $50 million contract, it appeared that the impeccable decision-making that the Patriots are known for would ensure good behavior. Now it seems that owner Robert Kraft and Coach/GM Bill Belichick displayed questionable judgment in signing Hernendez to his blockbuster deal.
I asked one of my teachers today if her nine-year old son had heard the news. Fortunately, the family had been out of town so he was not aware. I’m concerned about this little guy and the thousands of other New England boys and girls who put their faith in these sports role models. As I wrote about, we need more Jeremy Lins (NBA star) who show persistence and flexibility and display humbleness.
As I mentioned in that Lin post, the great NBA star Charles Barkley once stated that athletes should never be true role models for kids. Instead, children should look up to their parents. This is hard to argue but with modern media, a story like the Hernendez account is bound to have some impact. How can parents deal with this?
Be clear and honest with kids without revealing the darkest details. It’s also important to note that one is innocent until proven guilty but if indeed, events occurred the way it appears, Hernendez deserves to be punished for his crimes and that the victim and his family are entitled to justice. Most importantly, remind children of the great role models in their life including family, close friends, and their teachers.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently stated on the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes that “there are some people who are evil and perhaps can’t be redeemed”. This realization came after spending years as a prosecutor and resulted in some disillusionment in her view of the human spirit.
There’s plenty of time for kids to realize the darker side of life. In light of the Hernandez revelations, I hope parents emphasize to their children that the majority of adults are caring, loving, and work to protect the weak. It’s still a wonderful world.