Saturday, January 9, 2010
Guns and Role Models
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
If you have been following sports over the past week, you have heard, seen and read a great deal about injured athletes. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy had to leave the National Championship football game with an injured shoulder after completing two passes on the opening drive. Tim Welker blew out his knee last Sunday and will not play for the Patriots again this season. Red Sox third-baseman Mike Lowell was traded to Texas and then sent back because a physical revealed a thumb injury. One assumes he also has more than a little wounded pride after Boston basically said that they did not want him on the team. And speaking of wounded pride, imagine how Jacoby Ellsbury feels after listening all week to people saying that he really isn’t a very good defensive outfielder.
But sometimes the worst injuries are self-inflicted. And they are often not physical. When it comes to self-inflicted harm, few athletes can match Gilbert Arenas, a star basketball player with the Washington Wizards.
The details are fuzzy, but the basic outline of the story is clear. Arenas got into an argument with a teammate over a gambling debt, and he brought four unloaded handguns (for which he had no permit) to the Wizards locker room. He laid out the weapons and invited his teammate to choose one. More recently, we learned that the teammate, determined not to be outdone, then picked up his own pistol, loaded it and had a bullet ready to fire.
Commenting in the New York Times, Gail Collins writes, “I would like to offer two comments about this. One is that professional athletes should not Twitter. . . . The second thought is that the average Tiger Woods fan is a middle-aged guy who is frequently too tired at night to behave badly if he wanted to, and that we have spent the last month worrying about the wrong role model.”
That second thought is worth pondering.
Not that we should all apologize to Tiger, of course. But our fixation with Tiger was not just about his celebrity, it was also about sex, and about our understanding of sin. I have often said that when modern people think about sin, they think about sex or dessert. There was more hand-wringing over Tiger than over Arenas. But for kids, basketball stars are much more important than golfers. And guns actually kill people.