Our Kids Need Great Role Models…

Back in the early 90’s NBA commentator and then 76ers power forward Charles Barkley created a commercial and said to the world “I AM NOT A ROLE MODEL.” And just like that we understood that some people were meant to be emulated and some were not. For years we would hold athletes, actors and other celebrities to this level of hierarchy; a symbol of reverance and greatness. But when Barkley made that comment, most of us took it as a slap to the wrists. Not only was it saying “don’t think I am a good guy” but that it made us have to re-think “who will our heroes be for the next generation?”

Fast-forward to now…I have a 3-year old boy who loves basketball. He can already dribble with both hands (he has almost learned to cross-dribble) and loves to shoot the ball even if he is only 3ft tall. He is a great kid and most of his idols are still in books or the videos we show him and his sister. One of their favorites is watching the Berenstain Bears. I grew up on those videos and books so I love it when they are singing the theme song or we discuss the moral of the story on stealing or hitting or cleaning up the neighborhood. Great life lessons. My son’s favorite episode is “Trick or Treat”, where Sister Bear and Brother Bear meet old Miz Migrizz who they think is a spooky old witch. They find out later that she is a sweet old lady who loves Halloween and they have fun “tricking” Too Tall and his gang who try to trick Miz Migrizz.

So it was my surprise this Halloween week that my wife and I asked my son, “what would you like to BE this Halloween?” and his answer was “Too Tall and his GANG!” What?! We were shocked and surprised. “WHY?” we said. “Because he does stuff…gang stuff.” It was a big surprise to me that this little guy was studying and watching (not yet replicating) what antics that Too Tall was up to. We had to be careful not to diminish this request insultingly but to also use suggestive hints. “What about the Hungry Caterpillar?”, “Batman?”, “Olaf from Frozen?” (I sent him a picture of the mask) Each time he would say, “Too Tall….and his gang.”

We were running out of suggestions and being days away from Halloween it seemed as though we would need to research various striped shirts and apple caps for the Bowery-esque looking Too Tall. But then it happened. I remember when he had watched a commercial for the NBA Championships and had seen Number 30 throwing in a 25 footer to beat the Cleveland Cavs. He said in a very confident manner “I wanna be like him. I wanna play like him.” What he saw was someone who he thought had a winning style and attitude. He was a superstar but not in the pretentious way. He was a role model without trying to be. Indirectly my son had found his muse.

So when I said, I have the perfect costume for you and I whispered “Steph Curry”, his eyes lit up and he yelled “Yeah! Steph Curry!” We had won the battle over good and not-so-good. (sorry Jan and Stan).

I hope that Sir Charles understands that it’s not about the hope or belief that people will MAKE you a role model but the simple fact that what you DO or leave behind in this lifetime can leave a mark on millions of little ones who are watching your every move.