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Nashville Scene Jock Jerks

Knight, Barkley, Tyson make good reverse role models

By Randy Horick

MARCH 1, 1999:  A couple of years back, when Charles Barkley declared that he had no interest in serving as a role model for America's children, folks breathed a fat sigh of relief. Most parents, understandably, weren't too anxious for their kids to emulate a celebrity who has been known to spit on fans, hurl saloon patrons through windows, and perennially lead the NBA in technicals.

Now, however, in the first whomperjawed weeks of the PME (Post-Monica Era), Sir Charles has no choice. Everybody, like it or not, has to be a role model. Every behavior must be judged by the effect it will have on our impressionable youth.

By the logic of the impeachers, we cannot tolerate those, like Barkley and Bill Clinton, who allegedly set poor examples for the kids.

Our children can learn a lot from watching guys like Charles--and it's not just how to rebound against tall guys. For instance, I'd be mighty proud that if, by watching Barkley, my kids grasp that if you possess a short, violent fuse, people may try to provoke you into throttling them so they can sue you for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then it occurred to me that, notwithstanding the braying of those who claim that sports have less to teach us than (to use a ridiculous example) opera, our athletic world actually is replete with unintended exemplars. For instance:

New York Yankees

Sure, Jesus preached that the meek would inherit the earth. But The Son of God didn't have to root for the Montreal Expos either. The payroll for that salt-of-the-earth team roughly equals what the newest member of the Yankees, Roger Clemens, makes all by himself.

The Yankees weren't content to preserve the winningest club in the history of major league baseball. Instead, they traded the ace of their pitching staff for a king: Clemens.

In the process, the Yankees proved once again that the rich tend only to become richer--and that a hard-nosed, aggressive attitude will bring you more championship rings than all the beatitudes put together.

David Wells

A season ago, "The Boomer" approached baseball with the unrestrained exuberance of a kid bounding for the exit on the last day of school. For good luck, he bought one of Babe Ruth's old Yankees' caps. He rocked the clubhouse with his Metallica tapes.

He lived a Field of Dreams season, pitching a perfect game, establishing himself as the top pitcher on the most successful team ever, and leading the Yankees through the playoffs. Along with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Wells helped bring romance back to baseball.

Then, last week, Wells became a poster child for disappointment. After learning that he'd been unceremoniously traded by the Yanks to Toronto--a team that he'd already escaped once--Wells was too overwrought to speak.

As an unintentional exemplar, however, he spoke volumes. His case will doubtless help us return from the giddiness of last season to the reality that baseball is foremost a business.

And, as for our children, the sooner they learn to deal with dashed dreams, the better. What better preparation for the possibility that, after slavishly putting in their 80-hour weeks, they could find themselves downsized or restructured out of a job.

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson is a powerful and wealthy sociopath. That's what makes him such an impressive role model.

A couple of weeks ago, Iron Mike was ordered back behind iron bars after pleading no contest to the charge of pummeling two punchless old guys with whom he'd just been in a fender-bender.

Assuming he's over Tinky Winky, even Brother Jerry Falwell would have to applaud this exemplary behavior. By returning to the pokey, Tyson heroically demonstrated to America's youth that bad actions bring bad consequences. I don't know about you, but I want my kids to "be like Mike"--at least in knowing that if they sexually assault beauty queens, bite their opponents' ears, and then whack defenseless old people, even celebrity status and Don King won't keep them out of prison.

Bob Knight

Though Coach Knight is a great teacher of the game, a disciplinarian, and an honest recruiter, he'll mostly be remembered as a model for compulsive loutishness: throwing chairs; kicking water coolers; profanely abusing reporters; profanely abusing referees; profanely abusing players; creating an international incident by referring to the Brazilian national women's team as "whores"; and forcing two of his players to find their own way back to Indiana after a tough road loss--and that's just the first page of his resum.

It's a wonderful legacy that Bobby will leave us when he finally departs. Better perhaps than anyone alive, he is showing us that, regardless of other accomplishments, a career marked by jerky behavior will lead people to label you as, well, a jerk.

The International Olympic Committee

In the manner of some old-time preachers, Juan Antonio Samaranch and his gang of 110 let it be known to prospective Olympic hosts that, while admission could not be charged to them, "love offerings" were welcomed. So the folks in Sydney and Salt Lake, who didn't just fall off a bobsled, lavished the IOC with cash and prizes at a rate that suggested Bob Barker on crank.

Once the shakedowns came to light, of course, some of the especially ambitious grafters on the Committee were shipped home in disgrace. None, however, has been asked to return any of the money, college tuition payments, and job offers for their children, and Lord knows what all else they extorted.

In the process, these role models by example have imparted to impressionable young audiences a valuable survival skill for the new millennium: If (when) you get caught cheating, repent of your misdeeds, but don't refund the booty.

Auburn football

Near the middle of this losing season, an Auburn booster with more money than God determined that he was ready for Terry Bowden to add "former" to his title as football coach. Fortunately for the Tigers' athletic department, a few hundred thousand dollars were available to remove the inconvenient obstacle of Bowden's multiyear contract.

Unfortunately, Auburn was scheduled to play this fall at Florida State, whose coach, Bobby Bowden, salivated at the prospect of inflicting a 100-point humiliation on the Tigers to avenge the shabby treatment of his son.

Fortunately, the contract with Florida State contained a buyout clause. All it took for Auburn to weasel out of the game was a check for $500,000.

If you're a parent, you can't help but be grateful to the Tigers for imparting a valuable lesson: Money not only talks, it beats the fire out of anything it smacks into.

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