Lawrence Taylor was arrested on rape charges today. Don’t know if he’s innocent or not, but it’s an interesting jumping-off point for a discussion about athletes and their being Role Models.
It’s at this point that most people trot out the old Charles Barkley quote, but in this case I’m not necessarily talking about a “role model” as someone a child looks up to and/or tries to emulate as he grows up. In this case, I’m just talking about regular fans who are not only fans of particular teams, but of specific players ON those, or other, teams.
For instance, I would say that I’m a fan of Lawrence Taylor’s. Lawrence Taylor: Football Player & Video Game God on Techmo Super Bowl; not necessarily Lawrence Taylor: Drug Addict & Dancing With The Stars Participant. About Lawrence Taylor: Actor, I am indifferent; but let’s just say that none of these other facets to his being were really all that detrimental to my being a fan of Lawrence Taylor: Football Player & Video Game God.
The question I pose: At what point in an athlete’s Real Life Transgressions do you stop being a fan of said athlete for the work he did on the field (both real and virtual)?
Opinion is a tricky thing. Take, for instance, Mike Vick. I was never a big fan of his to begin with. I liked to watch him play, I guess, because you never knew when he was going to break a 50-yard run or throw the ball 80 yards down field; but I was never a fan really. I didn’t actively root for him to succeed over others who I was indifferent about (even though he played for the Falcons and I generally like them whenever they’re not playing the Seahawks).
However, after his conviction for running a dogfighting ring (or whatever it was of which he was specifically convicted), it’s pretty safe to say that I stopped being indifferent and generally disliked the guy.
Which is a completely different situation with my regard for Lawrence Taylor, who I would’ve put easily in my Top 10 Favorite NFL Players from my youth. Along with the likes of Walter Payton, Steve Largent, Jacob Green, Joe Montana, Bo Jackson, Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, Refrigerator Perry, and Cortez Kennedy. I dunno, that’s just off the top of my head.
As the years went on, my regard for Lawrence Taylor only escalated. For instance, being a huge coke-head yet still dominating the game of football for the better part of a decade. Stuff like that. I think like a lot of kids growing up and watching sports, we’re attracted to the real bad-asses. The guys who can take over a game – especially in a position like Linebacker or Safety, where you’re not just taking over, but taking OUT. See: Joe Theismann.
So, I ask? At what point do I STOP being a fan of Lawrence Taylor? If he’s convicted of rape? If he’s convicted of raping a 16 year old girl (which is essentially taking a horrible situation and throwing a pile of cancer on it)?
Or, is it okay to be a fan of Lawrence Taylor: Football Player & Video Game God while at the same time loathing Lawrence Taylor: Convicted Child Rapist (if he is indeed convicted for this or some other hypothetical future crime)?
I think the way it’s supposed to go is, if the topic of Lawrence Taylor comes up (if he is convicted), you say, “What a scumbag he is … too bad, because he was one motherfucker of a linebacker back in his day.”
Which I think I’m okay with. It would be a lot harder to swallow if I was a real die-hard fan of a guy and then he was brought up on rape charges. I think I’d be a lot more conflicted if it were Steve Largent, Gary Payton, Edgar Martinez, or Ken Griffey Jr. in the news right now. I’m not gonna lie to you, I’d probably be THAT guy who points to all the holes in the case and questions the integrity of the victim.
Then again, those are guys who you’d never think would ever be involved in something like this. Lawrence Taylor … let’s admit it, nobody’s all that shocked right now. He’s not exactly pre-last-Thanksgiving Tiger Woods; hell, this story could replace every “Lawrence Taylor” with “Mike Tyson” and who’d know the difference?