The fall of yet another role model - Jason Smith

I debated for a few days on whether to write a column about the whole Tiger Woods thing.

I'm not a big golf fan, and aside from the occasional game of putt-putt, I've never dabbled in the sport. Still, like many people, I have admired Woods' dominance on the greens over the years.

Away from the golf course, he always seemed to be someone who was worthy of the respect he was given there as well. He's undoubtedly been viewed as a role model for kids for many years.

When the news broke that he had allegedly been involved in a number of extramarital affairs, repercussions included a series of undesirable headlines and lost endorsements.

Fellow athletes, and others who have been associated with Woods in the past, have gone on record with their feelings on the latest saga of Woods' fall from grace.

On one hand, his reported indiscretions with a growing list of women are being talked about in virtually every news venue.

On the other, the average person's life isn't affected much by what Woods does in his private life.

Or is it?

As I said, Woods is a role model. Until recently, he's been regarded as a positive one.

For some who have followed his career, that perception has taken a serious hit. As a result, he's become an example of what not to do.

We've seen various athletes, over the years, get knocked down a few notches on the role-model ladder. Some have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, while others have displayed characteristics in their personal lives which are not worth emulating.

For Woods to be included in the latter category now is a big disappointment.

But, there is something the average person can learn from his story. It's not just a matter of seeing how he bounces back from this situation -- if he does.

What we can glean from his troubles, and pass on to younger generations, is a reminder to be careful about who our role models are.

When we pattern our lives after an athlete or celebrity, we run the risk of being let down, because those people's lifestyles are quite far removed from our own.

Many kids choose athletes or celebrities as role models, because those individuals are the ones who are visible, whose influence is there seemingly 24 hours a day, because they are prevalent through TV, the movies, commercials, video games, the Internet and other forms of media.

Instead, those of us who are in a position to do so, should work as hard as possible to be the kinds of role models they need.

Yes, Tiger Woods has made some huge mistakes, which are now coming to light, and he should be held accountable for them.

But if we don't learn from his troubles and rededicate ourselves to being positive role models for others, the only people who benefit are the ones writing the headlines.

Jason A. Smith covers crime and courts for the Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached via e-mail at jsmith@henryherald.com.