Writers Note: I had plenty of things laid out on my calendar to write about today but then a couple of stories popped up and changed all that. These are things that I really feel like that I need to address because I have a very strong opinion on both subjects. The first of which will be covered in this piece.
What happened in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon was just horrible. I’m not talking about the embarrassing loss the Niners suffered at the hands of the Colts either.
In case you missed it, 49ers defensive lineman Aldon Smith was arrested on Friday morning for the suspicion of DUI but was on the field against the Colts. I understand where Jim Harbaugh is coming from when he still decides to play him because it’s his job to win games but what he did was just plain wrong. Now I know that some of you are thinking that I must be a 49ers hatter or something but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. San Francisco has been my team for as long as I can remember but things like this makes it hard for me to root for them.
I keep hearing people say that it was something that Aldon Smith needed before he left the team to get help, but I don’t care what Aldon Smith needs at this point. I care about the message that was sent to young athletes, parents and coaches.
What Jim Harbaugh just told everyone out there is that it doesn’t matter if you break the law as long as you can help me win games you will be out there. What is that telling our young people? Are you telling them that it’s okay to break rules as long as you play well? Are you telling them that they don’t have to be responsible for their own actions as long as they are great at something? Are you giving parents the idea that this is okay?
Do I think that Harbaugh was trying to say any of these things with his decision? Not at all, but that’s the message it sent whether intended or not.
Your skills on the field do not out way your responsibility as a human being, no matter what anyone tells you. Playing sports is a privilege not a right and needs to be treated as such. Pro athletes need to realize that they are in the public eye 24/7 and need to act accordingly.
Many young people want to be just like you and what they see you do is what they will do because you might be the only person that they can look up to.
The coaches need to understand that same thing. Every young coach out there has seen the meteoric rise that Harbaugh made through the coaching ranks and want to be just like him. The choice he made on Sunday to play Smith sent a horrible message to them as well. It shouldn’t be whatever it takes to win no matter what. It needs to be whatever it takes to win while following the rules.
That’s what our kids and parents and coaches need to see.