news Sports Opinions arts variety interact Wildcat On-Line QuickNav

The death of the American role model

By Al Mollo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
January 29, 1999
Send comments to:


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Al Mollo

"SHAME ON YOU," one headline blazed. The New York media could not believe it.

How could they have done this? How could the New York Knicks have inked a deal

with basketball bad boy Latrell Spreewell? The floor of Madison Square Garden would be sullied. There was concern that there may be a fan backlash once professional sports' most infamous choker donned the blue and orange. There was anger. There was outrage. I chuckled.

It made me wonder what planet these sports writers were living on to think that there are actually some lost souls who are searching for role models on the hardwood. Especially now, as millions of Americans are finding in the mailbox their pay-per-view bills, after watching convicted rapist/cannibal Mike Tyson in the ring.

And speaking of biting, did you hear that the assaulting sex-addict Marv Albert has made his return to the play-by-play booth? And don't forget that cocaine fiend Lawrence Taylor is about to be inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.

Welcome to the wonderful world of sports.

So why should this move come as a surprise to anyone? The fans who pay anywhere from $550 to $33,750 for their Knick season tickets do so for one reason - to watch Spree and the gang play ball. Latrell Spreewell is a thug, a criminal. But he is there to dribble, jump and shoot, that's all.

Let's take this a step further. Let us move from the gangster-infested locker room to within the marble pillars of our nation's capital. The similarities are discouraging. The consequences frighteningly more serious.

Think about this for a second: Polls consistently show that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe that President Bill Clinton committed perjury. Perjury is a crime. What do we call one who commits a crime? That's right, a criminal. A criminal. So, in other words, eight out of ten Americans believe that their president is a criminal.

If this is not unsettling enough, these same people who see the president as a criminal do not want him removed from office. It makes a reasonable person wonder what has brought about this destruction of dignity, this death of outrage.

Well, there are several possible explanations. Here are three of the most common:

First, the polls are all rigged and should be disregarded. While I refuse to concede all of my common sense to the know-it-all polls, I'm not quite sure I buy that one. Second, the average American is a brainless imbecile. While at my most frustrated times I come uncomfortably close to accepting some truth in this assertion, I haven't given up on the inherent goodness in the American citizenry. Not just yet. Lastly, the people of this country have been desensitized to the point where they are more interested in personal comfort than on the good of their nation. I suppose this is the most true. They look into their wallets and realize that times are good. James Carville would explain that "It's the economy, stupid." Puff Daddy would say, "It's all about the Benjamins."

But it is Bill Clinton who stands at the center of this demise of our national character. While his supporters contend that past presidents shared such flaws, it is difficult to find one who has damaged and desecrated the office as much as he.

The White House spin machine is fond of likening Clinton's situation with the acts of President Ronald Reagan during the Iran Contra affair. While such a comparison is, for the most part, baseless, there is something to be said for it. During that time, the public clearly held their president to a higher standard than today. Even a landslide victory in 1984, when Reagan captured 49 of 50 states and nearly 60 percent of the popular vote, could not shield him from accountability to the American conscience. When reports surfaced that the president may have misled the nation, his poll number plummeted 40 points. Such behavior would not be tolerated, even from this honorable man who, out of respect, not once removed his jacket while in the Oval Office.

But now we have Bill Clinton. At least for now. And we have witnessed once again this week his shamelessness in attempting to portray himself as the presidential role model this nation so desperately needs.

Laughable. That is perhaps the only word to describe the St. Louis presidential photo-op with Pope John Paul II. Laughable. On one hand, a man of great conviction. On the other, one that is facing conviction.

The time has arrived to place principle and dignity above our selfish perceived interests. We must cleanse this stain on our presidency which will, sadly, forever tarnish this fine institution. And we shall be clear in our refusal to never again tolerate such shame in the future. Because my children will deserve better. And so shall yours.