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Published: Tuesday, 10/12/2010

Dear professional athletes: entitlement doesn't mean you shouldn't think before you act

The Blade's blog Culture Shock is a three-times-a-week riff by Pop Culture Editor Kirk Baird on pop culture news, events, and trends. The blog will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, with the odd night or off-day posting if something is merited.

Dear [Insert name of professional athlete here]:

We know that you're cool. We know that you that you're cool. We also know that you've probably had most everything in life given to you. That's what happens when you're young, successful, and can do things on a field or court that most of us only dream of doing.

So maybe after years of such fan worship you can be excused for thinking you're somehow better than everyone else, that social rules just don't apply to you. That's what happens when everyone tells you how great you really are.

Look, if you think being a star in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, tennis, or golf gives you the right to speed on the highway and not have to pay a fine, so be it.

And if you think your job as professional athlete entitles you to access exclusive nightclubs, and to not wait in line in restaurants, and even perhaps some freebies in exchange for an autograph and picture -- that's fine. Perhaps you are to all that and more. After all, how many of us can dunk a ball, throw or hit a 95 mph fastball, make a leaping one-handed grab or other impressive physical feat.

That's your gift in life. And good for you having that ability.

All I would ask is that you at least show some common sense along with your entitlements.

For instance, taking photos of your privates and then texting them to someone on the company payroll. Not smart.

Texting racy messages to other women while your wife is asleep. Not smart.

Being photographed leaving a hotel with a stripper ... who is not your wife. Not smart.

Renting out two boats for a group of teammates and prostitutes to party. Not smart.

The list could, unfortunately, go on, but you get the idea.

The point is this. We're all human. We all have done/will do stupid things in life. But most of us don't make the money professional athletes do. Most of us aren't role models to thousands and thousands of kids like professional athletes are.

Most of us aren't recognized by most everyone as we walk the streets like professional athletes are.

As the saying goes, with the good, comes the bad.

So please, professional athlete, think. Think before you send that X-rated photo or steamy text. Think before you decide to step out with a woman who is not your wife. Think before you get on board "The Love Boat."

If not for your fans, or your families, or even your legacies, then do it for the person you love the most, yourself.

I'm working on a story about fears caused by films. A friend of mine, for instance, saw "Jaws" as a boy. I believe his parents took him to see the movie at a drive-in.

The movie terrified him. So much so, that to this day he won't go to an aquarium for fear of seeing sharks. He won't swim in the ocean, and gets freaked out swimming in lakes, and in swimming pools at night. He can't even watch sharks on TV.

That is true fear. Turns out there's an explanation behind all of it too. But of course, I'm saving that for the story. You can read it Sunday, Oct. 24, in The Blade.

So that gets me to today's blog topic ... the effect films can have on kids.

As many of you know, I have a young daughter, who turns 4 next month.

Like me, my daughter loves TV and movies. She would spend much of her day watching the TV if we let her. We don't. But on occasion we'll let her watch a movie. And like most kids, she loves Disney. I'm sure I did at her age, though I didn't have access to all the films that she does now, Disney vault be damned!

But even with G-rated Disney fare, I sometimes worry if I'm instilling in my daughter some emotional problem or crippling fear she'll have to deal with the rest of her life.

Watching "Bambi," will she be traumatized by death, a concept that she's not even really aware of right now?

Could "Pinocchio" scare her and/or make her think lying is going to cause gruesome deformities to her face?

These may sound like ridiculous concerns, but they're true fears expressed by children.

As part of my research for the fear in film story, I interviewed an expert in the psychological effects of media. She said that children up to the age of 5 have no concept of reality vs. fantasy. Children may say they know the difference, but they don't really understand what is real vs. what is imagination.

So explaining to my daughter that what she is seeing on TV isn't real isn't going to do the trick; however, I was told that just by sitting there with her, and answering her questions and easing her concerns and fears, I'm doing my job as a parent.

That's reassuring, I suppose. Still, I can't help but think about her watching Pixar's "Up" the first time earlier this year. She loved the movie, but she was beside herself when the characters were in peril, especially as they came close to falling from great heights. Could I be, somehow, creating a fear of heights?

It's weird to think that an Oscar-winning animated film could cause lasting issues, but I suppose it's possible.

I wonder if my friend's parents felt the same thing after they left the drive-in, as they looked at their son's traumatized face? Did they realize the kind of lifelong fear they just created?

Agree or disagree with a posting? Lemme know. Have a topic or suggestion? Lemme know that, too. Send an e-mail to kbaird@theblade.com or call 419-724-6734. Or even better and easier, rant on the message board.



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