Gilbert Arenas, Tiger Woods, and the limits of athlete-role models

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, January 9, 2010

With all the drama over another celebrity-athlete's fall from grace -- in this case Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and his indefinite suspension without pay by the NBA over a gun incident -- bear this in mind: A great jump shot is not indicative of maturity and good character.

Just as, I might add, a married man with a terrific golf swing can be stuck on himself and have eyes for cocktail waitresses, and muscled men on the gridiron may still possess the emotional maturity of little boys.

Athleticism is not synonymous with integrity, fidelity or good sense.

Gilbert Arenas is an accomplished basketball player. He may have been worth every penny of the six-year, $111 million contract that he signed in 2008. That I can't judge.

This I know: Arenas's hero status should be limited to his on-court performance. Even before the guns and locker-room incident, Arenas, off the court, was hardly an example to be emulated by children, notwithstanding reports of his charitable giving to Hurricane Katrina victims, schools, etc.

Throwing himself a $1 million birthday party -- as The Post reported -- and fathering three children with his on- and off-again girlfriend doesn't qualify him, in my book, as a role model for young boys.

The same goes for the world's No. 1 golfer, Eldrick Tont "Tiger" Woods. Woods has made tons of money doing what he learned as a child. Golfers, lovers of the sport, even casual spectators admired him for that.

But even before the public meltdown over his private behavior, it never occurred to me to regard Woods as the man to serve as an example to my grandsons. Unless they're interested in his sport, there was no reason for them to want to imitate him. They have worthier examples closer to home.

As with Gilbert Arenas, Tiger Woods was a billboard, but only for his sport. Their professional performances revealed little about their personal values.

In fact, the revelations about Woods and Arena underscore their childish impulsiveness.

Common sense says you don't do anything to jeopardize your livelihood -- especially when you are your sole meal ticket.

Arenas turned 28 years old this week. Woods is 34. Neither acts like an adult.


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