When a role model passes

By Michael Vass | November 23, 2010

How often have you heard the statement ‘I’m not a role model’? How many people in the NFL, MLB, NBA, as well as movies and television have made that comment in the past 15 years or so?

Today I learned of a loss of one of my role models. A man that emmigrated to the United States (legally) from Hungary. A man that never tried to be a role model, yet achieved that with great success. A man in the mold of The Duke (John Wayne for those that are to young to know what that nickname means) back when such a mold was anything but cliche.

Perhaps it’s wrong to expect those that are rich and famous for playing games to live up to the images they use to sell various consumer products. It may be too much to expect these people that live off of the adulation of fans to present an image that is worthy of emulation, but when did that come to be the norm?

My role model taught me to work with wood, to be innovative with the resources I had, to be respectful and honest. He valued hard work, giving me my first job. He respected my opinion and those of others even when he disagreed.

My role model provided for his family. He worked for 20+ years at a union job, that was back breaking work, just so his family could be taken care of. If he complained, I never heard it.

My role model was old fashioned. More likely to be called a macho pig these days more than anything else. Yet he had great respect for women, and anyone that earned a days wage with their sweat and determination.

Today, the role models promoted by television and sports care little for honor, or how they are percieved. They promote a brand, because they are paid. They play for a team (or discuss a movie) because they are paid. They wallow in their fame, as they violate laws and indulge in extremes the average person would be place in jail for decades if they did.

Today, many are embarrassed to mention they have a role model that is of a race seperate of their own. The media has made it such that the concept of a role model can only be restricted to specific races and styles of life. Today, people can only be the cookie cutter examples that is approved by a Sharpton, or whatever figurehead matches their ethnic profile.

Maybe this is unfair. Maybe reflecting on a role model and friend upon their passing is more than can be expected. Maybe the fact that society has given up on role models in person for the images in media is the most technological way to go. But I don’t think so.

I’m not perfect. I don’t know if any see me the way I saw my role model. But I hope that in some way I live up to the ideals and respect that was instilled in me by him and my father. I can only hope that 30 years from now some that know me will have similar things to say.

Today I recall the loss of a dear person in my life. I note the lessons I was taught and the impact on my life. And I am upset for those today that will never have the benefit of a similar experience.

Suffice I will say this. Role models still exist around us. They continue in the thoughts and lessons they passed on to us, and we hopefully will pass on to others. And those true role models are not to be found in the media, or schilling for some product.

This may not be the best commentary I have ever written. It may not convey the respect and sadness I feel this moment. It may not express the disappointment I see in the media promoted spectacles in the media. It can’t describe how important my role model has been in my life, and how badly I feel others are for not having a similar experience.

But I hope that in some way readers get what my role model meant to me. Because I will miss him greatly. He left us all far too soon.

Michael Vass

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