I graduated from The University of Oklahoma in 2006. I was fortunate enough to see Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene. I remember watching Adrian Peterson’s first collegiate game against the mighty Bowling Green State University Falcons. I remember standing (because you don’t sit in the student section) with a friend watching this specimen of athleticism.
Adrian Peterson was a great Sooner. His freshman year he finished second in the Heisman balloting behind Matt Leinart. Adrian Peterson is a phenomenal running back. Countless stories have been written about what he did last year less than a year removed from major knee surgery. As an avid fantasy football player, I owe Peterson a huge thank you for carrying so many of my teams to fantasy victory.
Like a lot of people I was saddened to hear about the death of Peterson’s 2 year old son. As a father, that is the nightmare scenario. My stomach turns just thinking about what I would do and how I would react if I lost one of my girls. The outpouring of support for Peterson was well-documented throughout all of the sports world. I mourn with Adrian and the mother of the child for their loss. I weep for the loss of a child.
However, Peterson is no hero. It is the story that surrounds his son’s death that proves this. As the emotional reaction began to subside and the truth about Peterson’s behavior as a father began to surface it became clear that Peterson, although a superstar athlete, was no hero. The fact that Peterson had only met his 2 year old son 2 months prior to his death reveals that Peterson does not deserve the status of hero that we are so quick to bestow on him. Since this tragedy, further stories have surfaced that Peterson has had multiple kids with multiple women.
On one hand, I think we sports fans have set ourselves up for failure. We have mistakenly translated incredible athletic ability with morality, and that is our mistake. Some of our expectations for our professional athletes are unrealistic. It is unfair that we place so much weight and expectation on them, as I wrote about Tim Tebow in January 2012.
On the other hand, this serves as an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities. Our heroes are not NFL running backs or other professional athletes. Our heroes should be fathers who take time to lead their households. Our heroes should be parents who take the time to frankly talk about God’s purpose for spiritual health, sex, work, and many of the other pressing issues or our day. Our real heroes are fathers and mothers. Our real heroes are pastors and teachers. Our real heroes are those who invest in one another and in all things point to Christ.
It is okay to continue to watch Adrian Peterson. It is okay to have Adrian Peterson on your fantasy team. Check that … it’s not okay to have Adrian Peterson on your fantasy — you should trade him to me. What is not okay is to make Adrian Peterson (or any other athlete) something that he is not: a replacement for the true heroes in our lives.