Only A Game? - Bye-bye Big Brother and hello talent

Kenya's David Lekuta Rudisha celebrates after winning the men's 800m final with a new world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium.
Kenya's David Lekuta Rudisha celebrates after winning the men's 800m final with a new world record at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium.

I am fed up to the back teeth with so called ‘celebrities’ barging their way into my life. Hard as I try to avoid such horror-fests as Big Brother, X-Factor and God only knows what else, their mediocrity always seems to hit me up the chops.

When you compare so-called reality TV ‘personalities’ to some of the athletes that have inspired us for the last two weeks at the London Olympic Games you really have to ask yourself the question ‘why do we give these latchicos any air time at all?’.

No harm to the Derry lad Conor McIntyre but he’s not and never will be a role model. I am sure Conor’s a really nice fella but surely we should be encouraging children to follow in the footsteps of athletes like Kenya’s David Rudisha, Ireland’s Katie Taylor and Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis.

Thirty, forty and fifty years ago, celebrities were celebrities because they were actually good at something.

Nowadays, it’s a case of get your bake on the television, make a complete clown of yourself and then milk your 15 minutes of fame for as much as you can get. Whilst the lure of grand riches is understandable, is the quick-fix celebrity culture something we want our children to aspire towards?

Surely, it makes much more sense to point towards athletes like Usain Bolt, Paddy Barnes and Eoin Rheinisch and say to our children, ‘go and be like them’.

The athletes who have won gold, silver and bronze medals at this year’s Olympics didn’t simply turn up and win; they’ve spent the last four years working hard and making sacrifices - are these not more admirable characteristics than say defining success with how many friends you have on Facebook or how much money you have in the bank.

In the Sunday Journal, we have a weekly feature called Sunday School. What it entails, is a reporter visiting one of the local schools and asking children questions like, what’s your favourite thing about school?, or what’s your teacher like?

When it’s my turn to visit a school I always like to ask the children what they want to be when they grow up.

Some of the answers really make me smile.

I remember one little fella at Nazareth House P.S. said he wanted to grow up to be Spider Man and fight crime on the streets of Derry.

However, there are always one or two in every class who give an answer that makes my heart sink. They say they want to grow up and be famous.

They don’t elaborate. They don’t say they want to be a famous actor, explorer, athlete or politician - they just want to be famous.

Sports pundits can have their opinions on the validity of women’s soccer and boxing but I’d much rather hear a six year-old girl say she wants to grow up and play football for Derry City Ladies or box like Katie Taylor than just be famous for the sake of it like Katie Price et al.

The definition of the term role model has become completely trivialised and with the rise of social media it’s much easier for people to get their message out there.

Social media is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong. I am an advocate of Twitter but only if it’s used correctly and not superficially.

You see, people have become so self-involved that they fail to see or indeed be inspired by those who have actually worked hard to achieve something.

This new-found apathy filters down to their children and all of a sudden the kids aspire to be like quick fix celebrities instead of character building athletes or other individuals who have had to work hard to reach the top.

The 21st century has become a celebration of mediocrity but the last two weeks at the London Olympic Games have captured the imagination of the world and all of a sudden you can sense a bit of a shift.

I was watching the news at home on Friday evening. A BBC journalist was reporting from the launch of a cycling initiative. The journalist asked a young boy who he wanted to be when he gets older; the little boy replied ‘like Chris Hoy or Bradley Wiggins’. Finally!

Now, ask anyone who knows me, I am not one for sentiment but I did smile when I heard that little boy’s answer.

It was refreshing and indeed comforting to discover that not all young children wanted to be famous for the sake of it.

When I was young I wanted to grow up to be a fighter pilot like Tom Cruise’s character ‘Maverick’ in the movie ‘Top Gun’. As I got older I wanted to be like Calcio Italia presenter and journalist James Richardson and then when I reached my twenties I was inspired by Irish Times journalist, Serie A aficionado and fellow county Derry man Paddy Agnew (well, one can dream).

I don’t think I ever remember wanting to be famous for the sake of it but that’s because the celebration of mediocrity is a new-found phenomenon and it wasn’t around when I was young.

It’s only through moments of sheer class, brilliance, genius, skill and character like the ones we have seen at the Olympics that we will restore the balance and start to celebrate talent and nothing else.