The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Cheap Shot On A Sharpshooter: Is Derrick Rose A Role Model?

By JoshMogerman in News on Jan 1, 2012 9:30PM

Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose sits on the bench watching his team during the fourth quarter of their preseason NBA basketball game and 101-98 loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 in Chicago.
We tried to bite our tongues. But the Trib’s head-scratcher decision to run a cheap shot Op-Ed targeting Derrick Rose has had us stewing all week. Mark Yost’s “Derrick Rose is No Role Model” has been nicely skewered by the Chicago Reader’s Michael Miner already, but we'll take the bait since the very public cheap shot is worthy of further scorn.

The piece boils down to an assertion that kids should not idolize professional athletes because it sets up an unattainable goal. Somehow if kids appreciate Rose’s abilities and demeanor they will be consumed with the dream of playing in the NBA, so academics will fall by the wayside in blind pursuit of athletics.

Sure, generally, professional athletes are not the ideal role models. Charles Barkley knew it. But that did not stop kids from looking up to him after bar fights and other ugly incidents. Try telling a kid that he shouldn’t look up to Kobe after his infidelities. And since kids are going to look up to athletes, shouldn’t the NBA’s most reserved and respectful superstar get some props?

Yost has other aspirations for “Chicago kids, especially those in the economically challenged neighborhoods from whence [Rose] came.” He suggests that kids should aspire to be U of C Professors like Barack Obama. Now perhaps Mr. Yost, whose byline says he lives in Lake Bluff, has not been to Englewood lately. Or visited some of the South Side’s high schools. Or noticed the ongoing public debate about CPS. But, given the state of Chicago’s schools, it seems a bit unfair to tell kids they should ignore hard-to-attain dreams fueled by a good guy who worked hard to take advantage of some spectacular physical attributes and instead idolize folks in similarly rarified professions who worked hard to take advantage of some spectacular cognitive attributes. (If only 3 percent of student athletes reach the pros, what percentage of the nation’s top students or PhDs end up teaching in Ivy League schools exactly?)

Until we give all CPS students the tools to strive to be U of C professors, kids will look up to stars who provide examples of how to escape some of our most troubled neighborhoods. Yost, who has written a book on impropriety and corruption in college athletics, knows full well that Rose’s well-documented academic sins are not a unique case — they are rampant in the system. Rather than tearing down a star who has showcased the value of hard work and family, we should be attacking the systems that leave many feeling their hoop dreams are the only way out — and leave the MVP out of it.