THE BEST ROLE MODELS FOR BAD BEHAVIOR

So Barry Bonds used steroids, smeared a little “cream” on his chest and poured a little “clear” down his throat. What’s everyone complaining about? It’s his body, no one else’s. It’s not as if another major leaguer, hoping to keep pace with Bonds, goes to see a “doctor” who says he can get some stuff.

It’s not as if a minor leaguer down in Double-A looks at stats and admits, “I’ll never make the big leagues without help,” so he picks up the pay phone and starts to dial.

It’s not as if a high school shortstop stands in front of a bedroom mirror, staring at his skinny physique, wondering if those guys at school might be right.

It’s not as if some coach, trying to keep his school competitive, isn’t happy to see the new muscles on his suddenly powerful clean-up hitter and decides to ask no questions.

It’s not as if an 11-year-old walks into the “health food” store and sees a shelf of powders and pills and thinks, “Hey, I know that stuff.”

It’s not as if a 5-year-old swings a hollow bat on a summer afternoon and when he hits a home run he squeals, “I’m Barry Bonds!” and makes a muscleman pose.

Is it?

Malice in the Palace

So Ron Artest and his Pacers teammates ran into the stands and started swinging. So what? They’re men. They want respect. They have the right to defend themselves. What’s everyone complaining about?

It’s not as if college football teams are going to follow suit and throw punches to make sure the other team doesn’t “disrespect” them.

It’s not as if a high school guard in the Midwest is going to swirl when a fan yells something and unleash a string of curse words.

It’s not as if some AAU summer leaguers in New York City are going to come to blows about who “dissed” whom.

It’s not as if some guy flying down the lane on a local playground doesn’t jam the ball and glare into the face of a defender, letting him know who “the man” is in this equation.

It’s not as if two kids “playing” in their living room are shoving each another in their chests and hollering, “You can’t touch me! You can’t touch me!”

Is it?

The incident near Vail

So a married Kobe Bryant had sex with a woman in a Colorado hotel room. So what? Why is that our business? They dropped the rape case. Why is everyone complaining?

It’s not as if other NBA players are secretly admiring how quickly Kobe got down to business.

It’s not as if NBA rookies are thinking, “Well, I may be getting married, but that doesn’t mean my road fun has to stop. Look at Kobe.”

It’s not as if a college basketball star is thinking “that girl who looked at me in an English class, I know she wants it.”

It’s not as if high school recruits go to campus parties and figure “if they really expect me to come here, there’ll be a woman like Kobe had.”

It’s not as if a 15-year-old on the junior varsity watches the cheerleaders and thinks “those girls are here for me.”

It’s not as if a pair of 10-year-olds are sitting on a curb, talking about how Kobe didn’t get in any trouble, and he got to sleep with his wife AND that other girl!

It’s not as if there are any grade-schoolers wearing No. 8 Lakers jerseys and thinking anything that smiling Kobe does is something they want to do — even if they don’t know what it is.

Come on. Grow up. It’s not as if any of these nasty headlines really have any effect, it’s not as if the young emulate the old, it’s not as if kids want to do what their heroes do.

It’s not as if any of this bad behavior trickles downhill.

Is it?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com”

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