Normski’s Article



(Every Sporting Hero/Celebrity has their Role Models too)

© 2009 Norman Samuda-Smith


There was a question my friends and I used to ask each other regularly in our conversations when we were kids in junior school: “Who is your favourite role model?”

Ninety per cent of the time the answer was a professional sportsman. Then we would split them up into three categories.  Boxing: That was easy, Mohammed Ali every time.  Football/Soccer: No problem, it was always Pele and Eusebio. Later in my teens and up into my thirties when basketball was my number one sport, the mighty three stood out for me, Julius Erving AKA Doctor J, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

Boxing was never a sport I attempted to venture into, simply because I didn’t want to be punched silly, but when Mohammed Ali stepped into the ring, he was poetry in motion and made the art of boxing look easy and enjoyable. Outside the ring, to me he was the first performance poet and a natural psychologist. He would psyche out his opponents, get inside their heads, mess it up and win a fight before his challenger stepped in the ring. As a person, he is true to his word, has strong morals which he always stood by and he has the love and respect of the world.

Pele and Eusebio were black pearls of the world’s football/soccer arenas. Back in the day we received limited TV footage of these players; but when we did see them, guaranteed the next day in the school playground, we would try to emulate the moves they performed on the field. Everybody wanted to be Pele and Eusebio, two of the greatest football/soccer players of all time.

We move on to Doctor J and his ‘against gravity moves’ he executed on the NBA basketball courts for the Philadelphia 76ers; slam dunking, double-pumping and finger-rolling the basketball with style, finesse and power.  Michael Jordan took Doctor J’s ‘against gravity moves’ to another level. Most of the time we would see him scoring three-quarters of the Chicago Bull’s total points in a game, while his team mates and the world watched in awe and wondered: ‘How did he do that?’ Magic Johnson of the L.A.Lakers was always thinking three/four moves ahead of the rest. Honoured with the accolade of being the best Point Guard of all time; tall, athletic and fast, his play-making skills were second to none; and his famous ‘look-away’ passes always deceived and broke down the most stubborn of defences.

Yes they entertained me and being an athlete for most of my younger years, they inspired me to become a better player in the sports I specialised in. Mohammed Ali added an extra dimension to his persona by speaking his truth and standing by his beliefs. However, we’re in an era where the youth of today are obsessed with sporting celebrities or boy and girl bands who become celebrities and celebrities who are celebrities for no reason whatsoever. The youth are watching and want to be famous just like them. The sporting legends I mentioned earlier are being over-shadowed by some of the modern-day ‘role models’ who are in their vocation just for the money, the fame and to pacify their egos.

So let’s step back and analyse why the likes of Pele, Magic Johnson and Mohammed Ali chose their professions. It was for the love of their sport first and foremost. Secondly, they were committed to work hard to become the best at what they do.  Third, the money was a bonus, alongside the major sponsorship deals and sports shoes made with their names on it. They became household names and role models through being watched on television via interviews and documentaries about them.  Some, not all, come from humble beginnings. You know the thing, born into working class families with not much money around. Dad had to work maybe three jobs to make ends meet and put food on the table, shoes on feet, the whole nine yards; while mom stayed at home and kept the family unit together. Some of these legends spent most of their formative years in their respected tough ghetto streets where they had the choice of going straight, or stumble on the narrow, but they had a special talent. A talent their parents recognised, honed in on and encouraged until their special ones were spotted, recruited, coached and the rest is history.

Most of the youth of today say and believe they will become famous and expect fame and fortune to be handed to them on a plate. “They want something for nothing,” my mom used to say. This is something they must understand and the 21st century parent must impress in the minds of their off-springs. For the youth who wants to become famous and be the best there is and ever was;  hard work, dedication and love what you do are what you need to achieve your goals; together with the support of the whole family unit. Encouragement naturally comes from the parents anyway.

Now I go back to the original question my friends and I were asking each other at the age of ten:

“Who is your favourite role model?”

I know what my answer is now; my mom and dad.  All my favourite sporting legends are in a respected second place. If I were to ask the legends who were their role models, I have no doubt what their answers would be.

Til the next time – Everyting Bless.


*All rights reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the writer Norman Samuda-Smith.*


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