Guy W. Farmer: Peyton Manning, Stephen Curry — good guys in sports
I usually leave sports to Darrell Moody and Joe Santoro, but I’m going to make an exception today to recognize two record-setting professional athletes who are role models for kids who aspire to excel in their chosen sports. I’m referring to recently retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and sharp-shooting Stephen Curry of the National Basketball Association (NBA) champion Golden State Warriors.
All too often professional athletes are spoiled young millionaires who cover themselves with tattoos and hang out at bars and strip clubs. Some of them have fathered several children by different women and a few of them have criminal records. But not Manning and Curry, both of whom are happily married family men who try to live semi-normal lives even though they’re always in the media spotlight.
Manning, a five-time National Football League (NFL) most valuable player and two-time Super Bowl champion, retired earlier this month after a spectacular 18-year career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos. He set all-time records for touchdown passes and passing yards, and always conducted himself with class and dignity.
Manning was praised by everyone from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to his arch-enemies, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who said Manning made those around him better, on and off the football field — high praise from bitter rivals. “I revere football (and) I love the game,” Manning said at his farewell news conference. “I’m totally convinced that the end of my football career is just the beginning of something I haven’t even discovered yet,” perhaps second careers in broadcasting and/or coaching.
There were a few sad sacks who tried to take down Manning toward the end of his career. One was a female trainer at the University of Tennessee 20 years ago, who accused Manning of sexual harassment. She hurt her credibility by filing multiple claims against the university. And there was the wild allegation by failed TV network Al-Jazeera America Manning had used performance enhancing drugs. Manning strongly denied both allegations.
As for Curry, the heart and soul of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, he’s probably the best pure shooter in NBA history. As the league’s most valuable player last year, he set three-point shooting records, but he’s even better this year, averaging 30 points per game and shooting nearly 50 percent from long range. His spectacular shots seem to be radar-guided.
But as impressive as Curry’s on-court accomplishments are, his off-court activities are equally impressive. Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly, one of the nation’s top sportswriters, wrote Curry and his family try to live a normal life, and he makes time for his fans. Curry is also a major supporter of Reilly’s Nothing But Nets campaign, which supplies mosquito nets to impoverished Africans.
When an ardent fan, 15-year-old Sofia Petrafesa of Stamford, Conn., was diagnosed with bone cancer, Curry took a personal interest in her case. Sofia finally met her hero in New York. “I heard you got some bad news this week,” Curry told the star-struck teenager. “I just want you to know it’s going to be OK. Keep fighting.” Gushed Sofia said “it was like he didn’t even know he was famous.” How refreshing in a world full of egotistical “it’s all about me” professional athletes and politicians.
Later, Sofia began a nine-month course of chemo and radiation, and remembered what Curry had told her: “Keep fighting,” and she will. Sportswriter Reilly added, “Now that’s a warrior.” Two of them, in fact.
Manning just retired from the NFL and Curry continues to set NBA records. More importantly, however, both of them are admirable role models for young athletes.
Guy W. Farmer is a lifelong sports fan.