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> Should we really classify any mildly famous person as a role model, at the same time as bemoaning their ‘spoilt’ natures?

Mention Lee Bowyer to most football fans and you will get the usual list of anecdotes; the Kieran Dyer fight, various mistimed challenges, a spot of GBH, the dismissed rape case and a whole host of other misdeeds and manhandling.

He is one of very few people who could make Robbie Savage look like an affable rogue. Consequently it was no surprise when he decided to refer to an elderly lady as a “F*****g C**t” during West Bromwich Albion’s recent victory over Birmingham.

The incident sparked minor outrage amongst certain members of the press, notably those who tend to cater for the elderly. Many claimed that Bowyer was a poor role model for young people, and that his behaviour represented all that was wrong with the idolisation of footballers, not just in the Premier League, but universally.

Well, why?

Why should Lee Bowyer be seen as a role model? Evidently, abusing pensioners after you are substituted in a derby game is unacceptable. A lot of the behaviour Bowyer has displayed in his career has been unacceptable, but it is not his fault that people have decided he should fulfil the role, if you’ll excuse the pun, of role model.

People are quick to assign the problems they associate with youth to the spheres of influence which they believe manipulates said group. If footballers act badly, says the logic, then those watching will follow suit.

Football rarely spawns universal agreement, but it would be hard to find anyone outside of the industry who did not agree that many are overpaid, spoilt man-children, who have spent the formative years of their lives being told that they are in some way excellent. This, essentially, renders the concept of the footballer as a role model redundant.

Parents who are willing to allow footballers to become their children’s role models are far more at fault than the footballers themselves. Yes, the players operate in a very public theatre, with their every move scrutinized, a hundred cameras picking up every word, they must be careful. However, to state that any anti-social behaviour or crime was the direct result of the influence footballers have on their audience is clearly absurd.

The need to absolve responsibility is an ancient trait. Recently we’ve had video games, footballers & celebrities to bear the brunt of this bizarre process. Ancient Khmer cultures had a system whereby a man accused of murder, could actually blame the knife. There’s not a whole lot of difference.

This year we’ve seen “Bridge-gate” (which sounds like an architects nightmare), Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch playing (and indeed paying) away from home, and an unspecified incident involving Steven Gerrard. Their apologies are never all that convincing, after all, if you’re getting £150,000 a week to play sport then your ego is bound to be slightly inflated.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFLeTm46CqQ[/youtube]Bowyer’s outburst is just another incident which will infuriate the responsibility shifting contingent of the population. It’s easy to say that footballers used to be role models. Look at Bobby and Jack Charlton, Charlie George and Tommy Smith. But football has changed. At some point Rupert Murdoch bought a lot of the rights to the games, players suddenly found extra zeroes in their bank accounts, and the downwards spiral began.

Shamed golfer Tiger Woods put it best. “I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to,” he confessed after his harem was discovered. Sadly, they clearly can. If we slate the amount they are paid, and refer to them as spoilt brats, then we cannot, on the other hand, expect them to be role models. They hypocrisy is absurd.