Sure, I've reached a point where people look up to me. I've won just about every award offered in the sporting-goods business. I came in when this company was on the rebound and I took it to the next level. I single-handedly brought down our biggest regional competitor last year. I expect recognition for my accomplishments. But does that mean I have to demonstrate good judgment and maturity at all times just for the sake of my children? I don't remember signing up for that.
I never asked to be put on a pedestal. I guess it's just something that kids think they can expect of you when you're a successful man who brought them into the world.
At the end of the day, it's all I can do to drag myself home to bed. But there's always some little child telling me how much they love me, asking me to sign this or that permission slip, bombarding me with questions: Can I help them with their math homework? What sport should they try out for this fall? What's the biggest dinosaur? How should I know? Why don't they ask their teacher, or the neighbor, or the guy who drives the ice-cream truck? Just stop looking to me for all the answers.
Who are these kids?!
I just wish everyone would understand that I'm only human, and give me the privacy I deserve, the privacy which people who are not the parents of my children take for granted. If I didn't make $49,000 a year and happen to be married to their mother, these kids would run away from me if they saw me on the street. But because they see me as some kind of "father figure," I have to live in a fishbowl. Every little thing I do is watched, judged, and imitated.
I just want to get out there and sell basketballs. That's what I get paid to do—not to be some shining example for every little 6-year-old who lives under my roof.
I think it's high time society took some responsibility and put more role models in schools, in government, and on television. How are today's youth supposed to know how to behave unless somebody out there takes the time to show them?
I'm not proud of some of the things I've done in life, but that's just it: I enjoy life. Why shouldn't I be able to let loose a little and have a good time, just because these young people are looking to me to be an example of how to act? They're humans—don't they have minds of their own?
I face this kind of pressure every single day, but one man can never live up to all that's expected of him. You spend three weeks a month busting your ass on the road, trying to show customers in cities across America a good time, day in and day out, no matter how tired you are—then tell me I should sip on a ginger ale so I can be some kind of hero to two kids who happen to share my last name.
I have my flaws. I gamble every once in a while, I've had some rocky relationships, and I can lose my temper from time to time. If they start picking up my habits, good or bad, it's not my responsibility.
Where's the law that says they have to be just like me?
The fact is, these kids live in a far more difficult and scary world than the one I grew up in. But I knew better than to look to my father to be my role model, and they need to learn the same thing—and the sooner, the better.
Every child needs someone to hold them and tell them not to worry, to give them the strength to make it through the ups and downs of life. But until that day, I sure wish they'd stop asking me to weigh in on complicated issues like drugs, abortion, or the war in Iraq. Isn't that what CNN is for? They can watch whatever they want on TV—I'm sure as heck not stopping them.
I never asked for this, and I couldn't begin to tell you why my kids look up to me so much. But I guarantee you, I've never done the slightest thing to encourage it.