Idolizing athletes: how soon is too soon?


Auburn University photo

There has to be a really good reason to rename a street after a human.

Streets in Atlanta have been named for those who faced off with police dogs and fire hoses in the Civil Rights movement. They’ve been renamed for politicians who actually made a difference in molding the city into what it is today.

There are even streets named for athletes, like Hank Aaron and possibly Cam Newton.

Wait … Cam Newton?

In a story written by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday afternoon, some South Fulton residents are balking at the idea of changing Scarborough Road to “Cam Newton Drive.” Since Newton has family in the area, it makes more sense than you’d think.

But isn’t it too soon to be renaming a street after a kid that “transferred from” a college after committing a crime, just three and a half years ago?

And keep in mind: even if Cam Newton Drive doesn’t happen, there’s already a statue dedicated to his championship season at Auburn University. Again, I repeat — four years ago, Newton was just a back-up to Tim Tebow at the University of Florida.

Which brings me to Exhibit B: Tebow. Did we maybe go a little overboard with that kid, putting up statues in Gainesville and dipping his words in iron and hanging them on the stadium’s walls?

I know, I know — calling the folks in Gainesville delusional isn’t much of a stretch. Or a surprise.

Deadspin reminded us of the Brien Taylor situation, where the baseball player never quite panned out and ended up broke, living with his parents on a street named after him. I’m sure he was happy to have that daily reminder of a failed path to greatness.

Plenty of athletes had a more prosperous career than Newton before it all came crashing down, but I do understand that the statue was put up by Auburn because he brought them a title for the first time in half a century. So that won’t be coming down, and the Tebow memorabilia will be at Florida forever.

But six months ago, we all probably thought nothing would bring down Joe Paterno’s statue in Happy Valley, and that doesn’t seem like such a sure statement anymore.

We’re living in the era of short attention spans and instant gratification. If something special happens in 2012, it’s automatically better than something similar that occurred in 1980 or 1930, and we must honor it to remind everyone how special it is. A trophy isn’t enough, and a parade isn’t enough anymore, either. We must put up a statue and rename a street.

Maybe it’s time to bring a few of them down before we feel really dumb.

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