SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
Larry Eustachy is a role model, and so is Mike Price.

If you haven’t followed the national sports scene this year, you may be saying, “Larry who? Mike who?”

If those names are familiar, feel free to question my sanity, but please continue reading.

This is a family newspaper, so I’ll refrain from details. Suffice it to say that former Iowa State basketball coach Larry Eustachy, and recently hired and dismissed Alabama football coach Mike Price, were relieved of their duties for inappropriate conduct off the court and field.

The dismissals had nothing to do with their coaching ability and winning games.

You can react to the dismissals in at least three ways.

One is simply disbelief. How could two coaches with such lucrative jobs do something so stupid and risk throwing away a career? How could coaches who have made excellent decisions during games make such lousy decisions outside the lines? How could they put their families through such emotional pain and embarrassment?

Another response is that they got what they deserved. Who do these guys think they are? Don’t they realize that every move they make is under the public microscope? Aren’t they supposed to be leaders and good examples for young student-athletes?

A third response is pity and wishing that they would get a second chance. Maybe you haven’t struggled with the same lifestyle issues as Eustachy and Price, but, if you’re honest, you know that you’re fallible and capable of making unwise choices, too.

The indiscretions of these two prominent coaches were almost surreal.

Surreal or not, reality TV was never more real than during the coverage of these two once-proud and suddenly humbled men.

Their story is not new. In fact, we’ve seen it countless times in nearly every arena of life-including politics, business and religion.

Thankfully, the public scrutiny of major college coaches and athletes is far greater than most of us will ever experience.

All coaches-from those who volunteer in summer recreation programs to those hired for high school, college or professional teams-are role models. Some are better than others.

There will always be some who generate bad publicity, but I continue to believe that the good role models significantly outnumber the bad. I’d go so far as to say that even Eustachy and Price have had a positive influence in the lives of many young men, although their recent behavior will limit the scope of that positive influence.

Of course, coaches aren’t the only role models. Parents are role models. Siblings are role models, as are teachers and pastors.

When you stop to think about it, everyone is a role model. The sphere of influence may not be great, but everyone influences someone.

As a child, I looked up to and perhaps idolized successful professional athletes.

Today, I still admire the athleticism of many athletes, but I also realize that in some cases, that’s all there is to admire. We need to be careful about placing athletes and coaches on pedestals and expecting them to fulfill our expectations when they are flawed human beings.

As a child, I looked up to many of my teachers and coaches. I didn’t appreciate them as much as I should have, but I looked up to them.

Today, I better understand how fortunate I was to have so many teachers and coaches take a personal interest in me. Their influence in my life is far greater than they’ll ever know.

As a child, I loved my parents even though I didn’t always show it. I never saw the big picture as well as they did.

Today, I have the utmost love and respect for my parents because they taught me how to love, forgive and respect others. If there’s a Hall of Fame for parents, they’re in it.

None of my role models are perfect. Neither am I. I’ve already said and done some things as a parent that I’d like to take back.

My prayer is that in spite of my shortcomings, I’ll be a good role model for my sons. And I pray that they will choose good role models in life, because there are plenty of people who fit that bill if they make the right choice.

They need to know that the primary criteria for a good role model isn’t a high batting average.

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