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Sports have played a major role in society since the beginning of man. From the Greeks to the present day, the influence of great athletes has been tremendous. However, today's media has enhanced sports and the people who play them traumatically. Athletes are seen all over the place, we see them in commercials, on television shows, we read about them in magazines, and we watch them on national television all of the time. Sports are some of the most watched television programs. People of all ages look up to these athletes.

Athletes are expected to be responsible, positive, and mature role models. Many of the Sports Organizations like the NFL have put in league wide policies to keep athletes in line. Even though some break these policies and get in trouble with the league and sometimes the law. Most higher level athletes provide hope for young athletes all around the world. Jackie Robinson for example broke the color barrier in baseball, and gave new hope to black athletes everywhere. (Sailer 2) Children act like their favorite players when they are playing sports, and mimic their moves and attitudes.

Sports are a big part of our society. They put the athletes who play them on a pedestal. In this paper I plan to show the need for athlete role models in society, the kind of role models athletes become, and the ways in which athlete role models influence fans. One of the fastest growing popular cultural practices in the US is organized sports. Approximately 30 million children are involved in youth sports programs, 6. 5 million in interscholastic athletics and 250, 000 in intercollegiate athletics. (Sage 33) "I mimic the way I play after Walter Payton, he was the best and I want to be the best", Priest Holmes of the Baltimore Ravens said this when asked, who had the most influence on your football career.

Many big time players have someone that they have tried to play like and be like. Athletes are a big part of our society, and a lot of them are looked upon to be an influence in the community. The athletes who play sports at higher levels have to influence the younger athletes how to play with sportsmanship, pride, and heart. Although sporting events have taken on an extraordinary importance in US society, fair play and sportsmanship have taken a backseat to hype and promotion recently. (Barrett 93) In last years NFL draft the fifth, sixth, and seventh acquired from 5. 2 million to 8. 8 million dollars just for signing the contract. This means that in this years draft the players picked will want to make the same or more. This because the new players drafted want to do the same as the players the years before.

Many children all over do not receive very good parental guidance, so these children usually watch and mimic their favorite athletes. They act like them; they play like them, and watch their every move. So if the athlete does something wrong, and gets away with it. Younger fans think that they can do the same thing and get away with it.

So it is very important for athletes to be good role models. They have to set an example for the youth especially. Since athletics are so prominent, the people who make it to the top have to show the right way to get there, how to act when playing, and how to act off the field. High level athletes of today must maintain good qualities so that in future years the nature of sport will remain pure, and so our athletes can keep improving society in their own ways. Athletes can be role models in many different ways. You can have a role model like Cal Ripken who doesn't say too much, but has played in the most consecutive games in baseball, ever.

Or one like Latrell Sprewell who choked and threatened his coach at one practice, when he played for the Golden State Warriors. (Jackson 150) Many high profile players donate to charities, talk to groups of children, visit schools, and volunteer time to help keep kids off of drugs. Athletes show dedication, and their ability to keep their cool. Many of the players work hard off the field as well. They teach us to work hard, be good sports, and never to give up. (Globus 25) They try to be inspirational to everyone.

Many athletes try and get to hospitals to see sick children. They show us that even though you can be one of the best at a sport on the field, you still have to be a good person off the field. There are many athletes who have been inspirational to many people. Jackie Robinson had a great influence on black athletes everywhere.

He was the first african-american to join Major League Baseball. Mia Ham is the all time leading goal scorer in Women's Soccer. Mario Lemieux fought through cancer and kept playing in the National Hockey League. There are many more players that are great role models. Although there are many good role models, there are the ones who think they can't get into trouble, like Latrell Sprewell. Just this year two players in the National Football League got arrested for murder.

Ray Lewis and Ray Caruth were both charged with first degree murder. Lewis allegedly stabbed, and killed two people in Atlanta, Georgia. His trial starts in May; he has several witnesses claiming his innocence. Caruth is serving jail time, for having his wife killed. She was also pregnant at the time. These two cases are just two of the more serious problems that athletes get into.

There are many other athletes who commit less serious offenses, but still give off the same negative image. Athletes influence fans in many different ways. Fans of all ages have role models that play sports. Throughout the history of sports some players have made some terrific influences on fans. Probably the most famous was Babe Ruth.

Who some view as one of the best baseball players of all time. He went to visit a child who was very sick in the hospital. During the conversation the child said that he wanted Ruth to hit a homerun for him in the next game. Sure enough the next game Ruth pointed to where he was going to hit the ball and crushed the ball out of the park. However some of the athletes who have had the most impact on fans are women and black athletes. Athletes like Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to join Major League Baseball.

Jim Brown one of the best running backs ever in the National Football League was black. Plus he was said to be one of the best lacrosse players ever at Syracuse University. (Sailor 2) These athletes showed that no matter your color, you could be one of the best. Women athletes have been getting more prominent recently. Before, women's sports were considered inferior to the men's sports. As time moves along people have been starting to realize that women's sports can be just as interesting as men's sports. The United States women's soccer team won the world title this year over china.

Mia Ham who is one of the best women soccer players in the world played on that team. She showed that women could make it big in sports. She inspired many females to go out and start playing hard and working hard to be good. Although many famous women have been involved in athletics, she has been one of the most inspirational. High profile athletes have some of the greatest influence on our youth. If a young athlete watches a player on a higher level they take after them.

Athletes can influence younger players not to do drugs, to stay in school. They can teach how to play with sportsmanship and integrity. (Globus 26) Part of being a pro athlete is showing the players who have not made it to the top, how to get go the top the right way. Athletes throughout history have certainly been very inspirational in our society. They excite people when they are on the field. Most try to be positive off the field as well. Athletes help mold our society.

Whether they realize it or not the amount of influence they have on fan's is tremendous. Athletes can change people's lives. They go about showing us the right way to play sports and sometimes the wrong way, too. Most athletes come out into out communities and speak to children about staying in school and staying off drugs.

They also donate to charities of their choice. It takes far more to be an athlete then to just be a great player on the field. Now more then ever our society needs its athletes to be role models, needs them to be positive role models, and we need them to have a good influence on the fans. Bibliography: Stefano, Vito After First Four its a Pick em' April 14, The Baltimore Sun Barrett, Wayne Fan (atic's) on the Loose USA Today: The Magazine of American Scene, July 1990 p 93 Sailer, Steve How Jackie Robinson Desegregated America National Review April 8 1996 p 38 - 41 Sage George Sport Culture and Society Journal of Physical Education Aug. 1988 p. 33 - 34

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