12/01/11 — Opinion -- Sport's life lessons

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Opinion -- Sport's life lessons

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 1, 2011 1:48 PM

I remember a time when sports was full of larger-than-life heroes, memorable evenings at the ballpark with my dad and the belief that for the most part, athletes and coaches were the people I believed they were.

Those days seem long gone.

In the past year, I've witnessed the sports world -- particularly college athletics -- deteriorate through academic fraud, pay-for-play, recruiting misdeeds and child-sex scandals. The child-sex controversies at Penn State and Syracuse have tainted two proud universities and a pair of legendary coaches -- Joe Paterno and Jim Boeheim.

Professional sports did not go untouched as both the NBA and NFL have gone through lockouts.

Over the weekend, the cold shoulder turned to sportsmanship sunk to new lows as Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stomped on Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith's right arm. Before the stomp, Suh shoved Dietrich-Smith's helmet toward the turf.

Suh was suspended for two games Tuesday, but not before he offered this head-scratching explanation for his actions, "A lot of people are going to create their own storylines for seeing what they want to interpret, but I know what I did and the man upstairs knows what I did."

The loss of two game checks worth $165,000 and being forced to stay away from practice and team facilities aren't the true punishment for Suh. Hopefully, missing two games and the tarnish on his reputation will be the true teacher for Suh.

On Sunday, Buffalo Bills' receiver Stevie Johnson mocked New York Jets' receiver Plaxico Burress after scoring a touchdown by pretending to shoot himself in the leg. Burress spent 20 months in prison on an illegal weapons charge after accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a Manhattan nightclub three years ago. Karma reared its ugly head later in the game as Johnson dropped a pair of critical passes in Buffalo's 28-24 loss.

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow continues to create a media firestorm with his unconventional play and outspoken faith. It is unfortunate that one player doing things the right way has become overshadowed by two players who seem enamored with the love of fame, not the love of the game.

Sports possess the potential to teach invaluable life lessons, build confidence in youth that can lead them to do amazing things with their lives and forge friendships that last a lifetime.

The growing doubt that there are perhaps more figures in the once-positive world of sports have something to hide than those that don't leaves me questioning exactly what message our so-called "role models" are sending.

There are still plenty of positives in athletics and countless lessons to be learned. It just takes a magnifying glass to find them sometimes.