Given the huge implications of the "Acela" primaries, this column could easily have been about the newly shaped presidential race.
Instead, it’s about something more important: The need to call out arrogant celebrities whose sense of entitlement is perversely affecting our children. Rather than living up to their responsibility as role models, these "stars" are teaching all the wrong lessons about how we should conduct ourselves when things don’t go as planned.
And let’s be honest: in our 24/7 social media culture, people – especially kids – emulate pop culture icons substantially more than they do the president of the United States, sad as that may be.
Granted, it’s the nature of the business for celebrities to exhibit a certain level of conceit, born from big fan bases and the ever-present sycophants. But the level of pretentiousness is out of control. And that expectation of privilege, with accompanying tantrums, will only grow if we don’t stop excusing their reprehensible behavior. Since 99.9 percent of our children won’t have multi-million dollar paychecks on which to fall back when they storm out of a situation not to their liking, we better get ready to reap the whirlwind.
• "Live" talk show host Kelly Ripa reportedly threw a fit and stormed out of the studio after discovering that co-host Michael Strahan would be departing to take a full-time position with Good Morning America. She left the show (for which she is paid $20 million annually) and was unable to be reached, leaving network execs scrambling to find replacements for the four days she was MIA. And why her diva antics? Ostensibly because she wasn’t informed of the Strahan decision earlier.
ABC’s reaction? A free pass, with a nice cover story that she was on a "previously-scheduled vacation." Sure she was.
Outside of a few criticisms from anonymous sources (the height of cowardice), there was no pushback from the network. Instead, she’s back to work and continues to rake in the dough. Since she didn’t apologize, Ripa must think she did no wrong, and was fully entitled to act in such an unprofessional way.
Sure, Ripa has a fan base, and exudes some, albeit not much, charisma. But no one is irreplaceable, especially when the hardest job requirement is reading a monitor – for 20 mil, no less. The network’s coddling effectively condones Ripa’s prima donna attitude, making her actions seem not only justifiable, but admirable to many young people.
• Last month, Chicago White Sox player Adam LaRoche walked away from a guaranteed $13 million (for what amounts to a six-month work year) because the team simply asked that his 14-year old son Drake not spend so much time in the clubhouse. Not only was Drake with him (and the team) virtually every day, but he even had his own locker.
So because the organization (and some players) expressed concern that the locker room should be, first and foremost, for the privacy of the players, and was not always an appropriate place for a child, LaRoche decided to quit, walking out on his team in the process.
Sure, sharing part of a dream job with a family member is admirable, and many players do – now and then. But every day? LaRoche took advantage of a generous situation afforded him by team officials and fellow players, and exploited it past all bounds of common sense.
Far from carrying the mantle of "most committed parent," LaRoche instead became the poster boy for the "you-offended-me, so-I’m-quitting" movement. He sent the message to every young ball player that if your coach (or leader, teacher, or parent) asks you to do something you don’t like, it’s OK to walk out on your teammates, friends, and family, with no regard for anything but your "hurt feelings."
What’s next? Should an office worker be allowed to bring his child to work every day? And at what age? Eighteen months? Fourteen years? Newsflash: that’s why God made daycare and school. In the real world, such an action would never be considered by a rational person because of the sheer ludicrousness of it.
As a coddled celebrity, LaRoche obviously thought he was entitled to do as he pleased, and upon not getting his way, he quit like a petulant child. But what happens when people follow LaRoche’s example in a real world job, without the cushion of millions to make such a decision possible?
• Perhaps worst of all, we have Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford. Just two months after signing a $36 million dollar contract (with $22 million guaranteed), he’s demanding a trade and telling the organization he won’t be attending the "voluntary" workout camps.
Why the outrage? Was he relegated to third string? Placed on the practice squad?
No. Much worse: The Eagles decided to select a quarterback in the NFL Draft.
Yep. That’s it. Despite assurances from the Eagles that he would, in fact, be their starting QB – and one would hope so, given the eyebrow-raising contract he was just given – Bradford threw a fit, causing needless disruption amongst his players.
Bradford is no Joe Montana, as evidenced by his underwhelming 7-7 performance last season. And his health has always been an issue, evidenced by this being the first spring since 2013 where he is able to practice at 100 percent. Bottom line: The Eagles made a sound business decision. (And since when is a little competition a bad thing?)
It didn’t matter to Sam that the Eagles are acting in the best interest of the team (and Sam) by preparing for all contingencies. Nor did it matter to Sam that his childish antics have been detrimental to team cohesion, with players wondering whether he will stay and be their leader, or is just buying time until he gets shipped off. Uncertainty leads to turmoil, which leads to toxicity. And toxicity always – always – kills any chance for a serious playoff run.
And just like that, the cautious optimism in the post-Chip Kelly era has been replaced by a wholly avoidable cancer. But instead of calling Bradford out for being a rich brat, and telling him to get his derriere in gear, the Eagles, unsurprisingly, are responding with fluff, and likely entertaining offers to trade him. And if that’s true, why sign him to such a lucrative contract in the first place?
All appeasement does is lower the bar for the next disgruntled mega-millionaire athlete to disregard contracts and jettison loyalty in favor of even more outrageous "it’s all about me" demands.
Pouting over things that are "unfair" (things that, incidentally, often teach children about life) is imbued in the young generation. They have been coddled by their parents so much that they don’t know how to fail. And since they haven’t learned how to fall, they can’t pick themselves up to try again. Instead, they are growing up in an artificial world of absolutes where everything must be to their liking – or they sulk away.
If we are to ever break the harmful cocoon into which we are placing our children, their role models must be called out when they act like privileged jackasses.
Otherwise, we might as well just punt because it will soon be game over.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column usuall appears on Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected].