To the Point for 11/17/2005

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I’M A SPORTS JUNKIE, and along with watching most sports, I also read as much as I can about different athletes and athletic events.

One of the hottest topics over the past few months has been the revelations that have come forth concerning athletes using steroids as a means of enhancing their abilities.

Most of what we’ve been exposed to concerns professional athletes who have turned to steroids as a way of padding their statistics in order to get a bigger and richer contract.

People who are living nearly every American’s dream for some reason feel that they have to cheat by using performance-enhancing drugs. They already are role models to millions of people, young and old, and have all of the money that they will ever need; but that doesn’t seem to matter when some of those athletes turn to enhancers.

That said, I don’t buy any athlete, including the left fielder of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, who says that if they did use steroids, they didn’t know what they were using at the time.

I’m sorry, but if my body was what I made my money with, you can be darn sure that I’d know exactly what I was putting in it. No one is that naive; and no one should expect us to be that stupid.

It’s like Tony Stewart’s NASCAR blowing up a few miles from the finish of the race, only to find out that instead of motor oil the crew had used cooking oil.

“I just drive it, I don’t know what goes in it,” Tony would say. “I trusted those guys.”

No. It doesn’t happen that way. Tony Stewart and other drivers know each and every bolt that is in that car.

Isn’t it interesting that baseball players know what kind of wood their bats are made of; but they don’t know what chemicals they are putting in their bodies?

What really scares me is that these people ARE role models for young athletes. There was a time when a young person who strived to be a professional athlete found the path to that dream through hard work and dedication.

Now, the message is that you take the “cream” and the “clear” and — when you get caught — simply say that you didn’t know what it was.

It’s enough to make a person turn away from sports; and I would — if it weren’t for every winter in Indiana.

High school basketball has kicked off, with the Lady Pacers having two games under their belt and preparing for a third; and the boys team has its jamboree on Saturday afternoon before playing Shawe this Tuesday.

I have always believed that high school sports is the purest form of competition that we can see. We sit in stands and watch children fulfill a dream of putting on a jersey that has the name of their hometown on the front of it, and then run out and give everything that they have now to let the hometown folks down.

I remember when I was a little boy, the teenage girl who lived next door to my family was dating a boy named Phil Dunnington — who also happened to be the quarterback of the Centerville High School football team.

I would sit on my front porch and see him come and go on a daily basis, trying to get up the courage to go over and say hello.

One day I was playing football in the front yard when I heard a voice behind me. It was Phil Dunnington.

In shock, we tossed the football back and forth for a couple of minutes, until his date was ready and he had to leave. I remember looking at him and asking if he would autograph my football for me. I also remember that he reluctantly agreed.

Looking back, he was a 17-year old kid; but to me — he was every bit as good as Johnny Unitas or Joe Namath. I wasn’t old enough to distinguish between pros and high school players; and for years my game of toss with Phil Dunnington was my own personal “brush with greatness”.

That football is probably buried somewhere in my parent’s garage, but the memory of day stays with me almost 40 years later.

As our high school seasons get underway, I think it’s important that as parents we point our children toward role models that are right here in their home community — not whining about making millions of dollars while taking illegal drugs to do it.

Whether we win one game or 20, I hope our high school athletes know that they are role models to the younger children of this county; and that those kids are watching — and they are imitating what they see.

The true purpose of athletics lies in the competition, not in the final score. Let’s all try and remember that as we support our young men and young women as they represent us around this area.

And let’s also make sure that our younger children understand that kids like Kodi Driver and Natalie Daugherty and Ashley Chase and B.J. Shelton and Ben Hickman and Josh Snow and all of the others are the true role models that they should be following.

The spirit of competition, and a true understanding of what’s really the focus of athletics, depends on it.