Where have all of the Role Models gone?

I get my ideas for posts from a wide variety of places and this post came to mind over the past few weeks when thinking about professional sports, especially the NFL.  As someone who is about to celebrate his 56th birthday, I remember well my childhood and the role models I embraced as a young man.  I was quite a sports fanatic while growing up, so most of the role models I cherished came from the world of sport.

Growing up between Chicago and St. Louis and being a baseball fan meant that I had to choose between the Cards and the Cubs.  I chose the blue and thought highly of players like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams while growing up.  I know none of these gentlemen were saints (none of us are), but I don’t remember a circumstance where they were in the news for the wrong thing.  Even their manager, Leo Durocher, was a crusty old soul, but he stayed on the right side of the law.

Professional sports today seem to have changed.  Hardly a day will pass when you will see a headline where a sports figure does something that is unsavory.  Part of this is the proliferation of media sources and the growth of social media.  I suspect a bigger part of this is the disintegration of the family unit and the lowering of social standards as a whole.  I will not get on that soapbox today, but some will agree and some will not.  Even the biggest event in sports, the Super Bowl, was not without its share of side shows, starting with the coach of each team.

Pete Carroll appears to have gotten on the straight and narrow in Seattle, but his time at USC was fraught with a number of scandals and I would surmise that he was practically run out of town when he left there.  Bill Belichick has had many issues in his coaching career, including the taping issues and the issues around “deflate gate” this season.

Both of my sons are now adults, but I would be hard pressed to have many good role model examples to share with them in the professional sports ranks in today’s leagues.

Perhaps we have been looking in the wrong place all along?

Rather than looking in the external world, maybe we should be looking much closer to home.  Some of the best role models I have had came from family members, co-workers and others I have met in my day to day life.  Each of these role models have been people I got to know through personal experience and each of them also had a profound impact on my life.  I’ll list a few here today and speak more about them in a post later this week.

One of my first role models was Joe DiRocco.  Joe was a friend of the family while I was growing up and Joe could never give enough to anyone.  Joe would give me books for my birthday and for Christmas each year and this only more strongly encouraged my interest in reading.

Another role model would be Mike Norton.  Mike and I had the good fortune to work together for several years in my last manufacturing role back in the early 1990’s.  Mike was one of the greatest managers I ever had and I learned many things about business, but even more, about how to treat others.  Mike gave me the highest compliment the day after I turned in my notice at CEI to join the YMCA in 1994.  He told me that he didn’t sleep at all the previous night after I had turned in my notice.  This was not shared as a vindictive jab, but as more of an honest sharing of how much I think he enjoyed working with me.  I will never forget my time working with Mike.

My dad would be the third role model I would share today.  While there were many public stories I could share about my dad, I learned much about my dad by following him around as a young man.  He was a man of service and that service was typically centered around honoring his fellow comrades in arms from the armed forces of our country.  Any time an honor guard was needed on Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day you would find my dad there in the honor guard, firing a rifle (blanks, of course) to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.  The biggest act of service was his tireless work to place flags on veteran’s graves each Memorial Day to honor them for their service to our country.  I don’t know of any other young man who spent more time in cemeteries than I did.  The impact of that time did not really sink in until later in my life.

Choose carefully when you seek your role models.  Don’t be distracted by the glitter and glamour of those who seek media attention.  Choose wisely and find someone who will spend time showing you the correct ways to serve and love others well.

You will be glad, trust me.  I am.