Fans can't have the perfect athlete of a devoted family man who dominates his sport. Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant head a list of sports icons over the past decade, but as icons go, they're not the first two that come to mind as role models.
Woods' reputation before Masters hovers between fallen hero and villain
Prior to his last major championship, the epic U.S. Open victory he won on one leg, Woods was the household name among golf fans. Three years later, younger generations know him as a Hall of Fame great who got caught cheating on his wife. In those three years the best golfer in the world has taken repeated shots to his reputation that has changed him from role model to tragic example of how athletes must tread carefully when faced with stardom. It took rehab and sweeping lifestyle changes for Tiger Wood to regain some of his lost form, having just won his first tournament since 2009. He fired caddy Hank Haney after 13 major victories together. Haney then wrote a book detailing his former partner as "reckless and inscrutable." Those don't sound like qualities young golfer look for in their idols. Perhaps that, more than anything, shows how much winning can erase how much people care about what an athlete is like as a human being. As Woods prepares for The Masters in hopes of capturing his 15th title, it's amazing how he and others like him still garner love.
Bryant has bullied Los Angeles Lakers and Vanessa Bryant for years
Another huge sports name that can share in that love with Woods is basketball star Kobe Bryant. If one even tossed aside his rape allegations and alleged adulterous actions on wife Vanessa Bryant, the picture doesn't get any brighter. For all his miraculous shots and amazing talent, Bryant comes off as a fierce competitor willing to bully opponents and even his own front office if he has to. Not only has he threatened to leave if the Lakers didn't carry out his wishes, but he also openly questioned potential trades Los Angeles explored before the trade deadline. His comments more than anything may have sunk a trade for All-Star center Dwight Howard and put the Lakers in their current state of limbo. No one knows if the team is good, bad or pretty with a rotten core. Bryant isn't to blame for everything, but like Woods his history of bad decisions gets ignored because he happens to win.
Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow win too but don't get the same love
If winning matters most in sports, then why do a number of fans come down on Jeremy Lin or Tim Tebow so much. Recent history shows that the two young men are devout Christians, active in charity work and very polite in person. They also have a history of winning. Yet a number of fans and experts call them gimmicks or jokes. Compared to Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant they might not have enough talent, but one quick look says they are easily better people. No one says Lin or Tebow deserve unquestioned love since neither has won a championship. However, granting Woods and Bryant a pass just because they have is equally wrong. Role models in sports are about more than rings. They're about setting good examples at home and at work, something neither man has shown he is capable of.