As a kid, there was nothing I liked more than Sundays in the fall.
Those days consisted of beautiful weather and quality time with my friends and family. But the main reason why I always looked forward to them? The NFL.
Sunday was easily my favorite day of the week, and it was all because of the game of football. Nothing compared to the feeling I had waking up early to make sure I had on my favorite player’s jersey and turning the TV on just in time for my favorite pre-game show to start.
When I first started to watch football as a kid, I remember looking at those big, strong men playing and thought that they were superheroes. So, when recent news started to break revealing what types of people a lot of different players were off the field, I was heartbroken.
I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and idolized them from the day I started to watch. But what do I think of the Steelers now? They’re quite the opposite of superheroes.
Currently on the roster, there is an accused sexual predator (starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger), a player who served time for dog fighting (backup QB Michael Vick) and two players suspended for drug use (wide receiver Martavis Bryant and running back Le’Veon Bell).
Want to know what the worst part is? These are just players on my favorite team.
Over the past few years, it seems as if a new scandal within the NFL unravels every week. Whether it’s drug use, domestic abuse or cheating allegations, almost every team has a player guilty of something. Because of this, I think it’s getting harder for kids to have those “superhero” moments when they’re watching professional football.
There have been plenty of big-name players who have tarnished their image as good-guy athletes in the last year alone. Tom Brady comes wrapped up in the Deflategate scandal, Adrian Peterson was accused of serious child abuse charges and Ray Rice was caught on video assaulting his now-wife. At one point, these were some of the most talented and idolized players in the league. But now, you can’t say any of their names without thinking of their wrongdoings. This goes back to the “superhero” moments when watching these athletes. Parents aren’t going to want their children to look up to football player who just so happens to be a criminal.
Thankfully, the future of role models in the NFL isn’t completely dismal. There are a handful of players who come equipped with clean records and a plethora of reasons why kids should look up to them. For Example, J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans spends his time off the field working with multiple sponsors and helping raise money for his own charity, which benefits after-school athletic programs and organizations for kids.
All I want is that one day, when my future children are old enough to understand the game, they’ll watch it and have players to look up to on and off the field.
Well, as long as those players don’t play for the Baltimore Ravens.
Olivia Mulvihill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @OliviaMulvihill