PJP cheerleaders place third at competition

Journal Register file photo POPE JOHN PAUL II CHEERLEADING

Often in life, children look to the entertainment and sports worlds for inspiration and heroes.

Everyone remembers the commercials from 10 years ago about the little kid who wanted to be 'Like Mike.' They wanted to be able to lace up their Air Jordan hightop sneakers and take to the hardwood like Michael Jordan.

Each kid has his or her respective idol, whether it be on the basketball court, baseball diamond or even on stage. There is one person whom those children attempt to emulate and look to follow.

Three major entertainment and sports icons were in the news this week - each for different reasons. One finally admitted to being a gambler, one who set a good example for youngsters by getting drunk and married, and another person who was a true inspiration but unfortunately passed away.

Pete Rose, Britney Spears, and Tug McGraw each made headlines this week. The first two could be considered statistical heroes - they made millions off devoted fans - while the latter was a real inspiration in every sense of the word.

Prior to Jim Thome, Rose was the biggest free agent acquisition in Phillies history. He was a bonafide future Hall of Famer when he signed in 1979 and led the Phillies to their only World Series title in 1980. He became Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader and aptly named "Charlie Hustle," he was a symbol of guts and heart on the field to millions of fans.

He was a sports icon to many children in the 1980s.

But off the field is where he lost my respect and the respect of others. It doesn't matter to me that he gambled on baseball or football or other sports. What he did off the field shouldn't affect how he played the game. The fact that he has been kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame shouldn't have anything to do with what he did off the field.

But .... as it turned out this week, he flat-out lied to baseball officials. More importantly, he lied to the fans who have paid money to see him play and the people who have paid to get his autograph at card shows and book signings across the country. He even lied about betting on baseball in his autobiography.

His reason - he figured his punishment would be more severe if he admitted his guilt right away rather than waiting until now. Apparently, he saw his window of opportunity for forgiveness (and Hall of Fame eligibility) dwindling by the year.

It was also a chance for him to promote his new book. He came forward in his new book, appropriately named "Pete Rose: My Prison without Bars," which was released this week. According to an Associated Press report on Wednesday, Rose's web site is taking orders for the book with personalized autographed copies going for up to $100.

Basically what Pete Rose is saying is - yes, I bet on baseball and now, put me in the Hall of Fame and buy my book.

While she's not a sports figure, Britney Spears is also losing people's respect by the minute. The former child Mouseketeer is shedding her good girl image that she originally claimed to have. First she admits that she was never that "innocent" with boyfriend Justin Timberlake.

This past weekend, she added another bit of gossip to the rumor mill with her escapades in Las Vegas. Apparently, Spears got so drunk that she and her high school friend got married, and didn't realize what they had done. Reports state that she went to a club, then went to a wedding chapel. She discovered that she needed a marriage license to get married while at the chapel. So, the two of them went to city hall in Las Vegas and returned to the chapel to get married.

You'd think between going to the chapel, going to city hall, and back to the chapel, that one of them would wake up from their drunken stupor and realize what they were doing. This was a great example for Spears to present to the millions of pre-pubescent and teenage fans who buy her albums.

What a role model she has become for them.

Unfortunately, the true role model in this week's newsmakers was the one who passed away. Frank Edwin "Tug" McGraw will forever be etched in Philadelphia sports fans' minds as the person who closed out the World Series. His strikeout of Willie Wilson clinched the Game 6 and the World Series title for the Phillies. Watching Mike Schmidt leap into McGraw's arms after the game's final is one memory that people have of that series.

But more importantly, his sense of humor and gentle personality is what made him even more lovable in this area. He always did a nice thing for fans. He did countless charity events and book signings. He had a nickname for each pitch he threw. One was "Scroogie" and another was "Peggy Lee." He was also a colorful newscaster on the local ABC affiliate.

I was in attendance in September on the final game of the season when the Phillies closed Veterans Stadium and introduced former players in the postgame ceremony. McGraw, having been stricken with brain cancer, was the last person to take the field, re-enacted his famous pitch, and the 65,000-plus fans in attendance rose to their feet in an incredible ovation.

The ovation was well-deserved. He will forever be one of the most popular Phillies of all-time. It is a shame that of the three people who made headlines this week, the only true role model is gone.

Kevin Leitzell can be reached at kleitzell@phoenixvillenews.com.

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