Just Duck The Issue

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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(Preface: The following column would not be possible if we didn't place athletes on pedestals instead of those who excel at something that matters. I mean, the whole jock mentality is so anti-heroic. It's all about brawn over brain, matter over mind. Having said that, I have to work with what I'm given -- a world whose role models are too often dumb jocks. Therefore...)

Move over Pat Tillman; there's a new athlete role model in town.

I refer, of course, to Mark McGwire, who recently appeared before the congressional committee investigating baseball's steroids scandal. Nattily attired in a green tie (it was St. Patrick's Day, after all), McGwire refused to answer any and all questions about steroids.

"I'm not here to talk about the past," McGwire responded to question after question after question.

McGwire, you will recall, broke the home run records of Babe Ruth (60) and Roger Maris (61) by clubbing 70 in 1998. A bottle of a testosterone-based substance that was legal at the time but is now banned was found in his locker during that season.

"If a player answers ‘No,' he simply will not be believed," McGwire told the committee. "If he answers ‘Yes,' he risks public scorn and endless government investigation."

At first glance, McGwire's actions and his failure to own up to them border on despicable. But I submit that his behavior will serve our young people better than that of Tillman who, you will recall, was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire after turning down a lucrative contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist.

Here's where I'm coming from:

While Tillman is your classic good-old-fashioned-all-American hero, his behavior can actually be viewed as counter-productive considering the way the modern world works.

The days of World War II are gone. We simply don't fight wars the way we used to -- for noble causes, with control of the world hanging in the balance.

Today we fight wars over imaginary weapons of mass destruction and a vague enemy slips away into caves instead of standing and fighting. It's all become so murky and nebulous it's no wonder you can get killed by your own guys.

Now let me ask you this, mothers and fathers: Do we not live in a world where the most successful among us fail to take responsibility for our actions? A world where everything depends on "what is is"? Do we not want our children to be successful? To even grow up to be president one day?

Ergo, who would make the best role model for our children: an athlete who gives up the chance to become a millionaire for the chance to be shot by his fellow soldiers, or an athlete who stays at home and becomes a millionaire with the aid and assistance of designer drugs.

Which is closest to the real world we have come to know and love and, most important, tolerate with a wink and a look the other way? Better, I say, to have our youth follow the example set by McGwire. Not the steroids part, mind you, but the part where he failed to answer for his actions.

So boys and girls, the next time you are called on the carpet at home, at school or anywhere else for bad grades, disruptive behavior, not eating your vegetables, or anything else that society considers negative, remember how the all-time home run champion Mark McGwire handled questions about his behavior. Then just stand up tall, take a deep breath, look your accusers/detractors right square in the eyes, and recite the following:

"With all due respect, I've been advised that I can't answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself. I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."

Just try it, boys and girls. I think you'll find it works in a wide variety of situations. And then when you grow up and get called on the carpet by your boss or stopped by a cop for running that stop sign or called before a congressional committee investigating the use of whatever is the illegal drug of choice at the time, you'll know exactly what to say:

"With all due respect, I've been advised that I can't answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself. I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to be positive about this subject."

The green tie is optional.

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