Who cares if sportsmen get drunk or smoke? It's what happens on the field that worries me

There are some great people in the world, so why should we even think of looking to sportsmen for role models?

Share

Does anyone feel genuine outrage any more when sportsmen spend their down-time misbehaving? The person who posted pictures on a student website of Gary Ballance relaxing after a long, hard Test match by getting drunk and taking his shirt off in a Nottingham bar called Pandora’s Box obviously thought there was mileage in outing the England cricketer as a first-class idiot.

As did the fellow reveller who snapped Ballance’s footballing counterpart Jack Wilshere having a drag on a post-World Cup cigarette in a swimming pool on holiday.

I’m no apologist for tobacco, but while alcohol has destroyed careers, there’s no evidence that cigarettes have wreaked similar damage. Wilshere is in good company – Socrates was a 40-a-day man, Bobby Charlton famously sparked up at half-time during the World Cup final, and even Stanley Matthews, albeit for endorsement purposes, attributed the silkiness of his ball control to the smoothness of Craven A. And better cricketers than Ballance have hit the bottle with no visible deterioration in performance levels.

Still, let’s be clear: professional athletes getting publicly drunk, or consorting with call girls, or having affairs, are morons who deserve everything they get. Even if nobody gives a damn anymore, why risk opprobrium and cancelled endorsement deals for a crafty fag or a bit on the side?

But do we really think Ballance on the booze and Wilshere on the Woodbines is going to corrupt public morals and ruin our children? I’d say it’s onfield behaviour we should be looking at. I’m not thinking so much of Luis Suarez and his penalty-box dietary habits – did onfield biting in children’s football spike on any of the three occasions he got his teeth into his opponents? I doubt it.

It's the dishonesty of the likes of diving supremo Arjen Robben we have more to worry about – what kind of message is he sending to the youth of today? That it’s morally acceptable to cheat? That dishonesty’s the best policy? That offends me a great deal more than Ballance’s drinking or Wilshere’s smoking.

Should we even be looking to sportsmen and women for guidance on how to live our lives? The former basketball star Charles Barkley got it right when he was asked about the influence he wielded. “I’m not paid to be a role model,” he said. “Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids. Parents should be role models.”

Parents, yes, and politicians, and captains of industry, activists who want to make the world a better place: they should be the ones to inspire our children – and ourselves – to be better people. Those paid to win trophies and medals by any means necessary should not be the figures we look up to. When we have the likes of Malala Yousafzai and Aung San Suu Kyi, who needs Gary Ballance or Jack Wilshere to be on their best behaviour?

READ MORE:
Why we should allow assisted dying
Marvel comics have maed Thor a woman, thank Odin
As a child growing up in Israel, I saw how Palestinians became dehumanised

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum