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Moffitt one of many heroes set up to fail

During the break there were a number of controversial news stories involving both professional and collegiate athletes. One of these revolved around Ben Moffitt, one of USF’s most prominent athletes.

This is a terribly unfortunate situation for all parties involved. Considering that there are children involved, I question the ethics of the person who took these allegations to a newspaper.

This situation has reinforced my belief that athletes and celebrities should not be presented to children as primary examples of stand-up American citizens. This responsibility falls to the parents who actually interact with their children on a daily basis. It reminds me of Charles Barkley’s famous quote in his mid-’90s Nike commercial: “I’m not a role model. Parents should be role models.”

Both the Ben Moffitt debacle and the Roger Clemens steroid fiasco, while unfortunate for these men and their families, are not completely surprising. They are only the most recent examples of athletes built up by the media and then systematically torn down by allegations of unethical behavior.

USF marketed Moffitt all season as a blue-collar family man, using the phrase “Linebacker. Leader. Husband. Father.” I don’t believe there was one game during the season in which one of the sportscasters didn’t mention Moffitt’s status as a husband and father. But then, just days after the Sun Bowl, his wife told the St. Petersburg Times that her husband was “living a lie.” Sadly for Moffitt, many people will now write him off as a fraud – even though these allegations have yet to be proved.

The story itself only made the news because the USF Athletics Department presented Moffitt as a role model in his personal life, instead of simply a great teammate and football player.

Ben Moffitt is human, just like all the fans and newsreaders, and nobody is perfect. The Athletics Department’s marketing of him has completely blown up in its face. As evidenced by many of the responses to the Moffitt story on the Times Web site, many folks feel conned.

Only part of the blame can be put on the Athletics Department; the rest falls on an American society that puts its faith into the figures it sees on TV.

In America, certain prototypical stories – of the family man working hard to support his kids (even if dad may have a drinking problem), of the loving old couple married for 50-plus years (no matter how miserable), of the kid told over and over that he couldn’t make the team before rising to superstardom – always capture the hearts of the masses.

Having worked in the television industry (in a non-decision-making capacity), I have witnessed TV producers and marketing agents adjust a true-life story – lacking some of the ‘feel-good’ qualities of the ‘American dream’ scenario – to meet the high standards of these archetypal stories. The media have the ability to eliminate pain and suffering so all we see are the smiles and the sunshine. Then when there is scandal of any kind, the public is shocked and disheartened. But it should really come as no surprise, as it was all manipulated to begin with.

The list of athletes and celebrities who have been connected to some kind of scandal is a mile long. Yet every time this happens, there are moronic parents who call radio shows outraged, not knowing what to tell their kids because their favorite athlete or singer is involved in steroids or some other scandal.

If a parent is the primary role model for his or her child, then that child won’t follow the path of some stranger on TV. And the child will not be completely heartbroken if his or her favorite performer faces a scandal. It’s ignorant to allow your kids to put so much faith in a total stranger.

Ryan Watson is majoring in mass communications.