From: Ford, Bob

To: Gonzalez, John; Fox, Ashley
Subject: Role models

Our old friend Troy Aikman graduated from UCLA on Saturday, donning the helmet and gown a mere 21 years after leaving school to pursue some silly profession.

I have to admit there were times I thought it would take me 25 years to get out of college as well. Those math and science requirements didn't seem entirely sporting.

We have a lot of athletes who send the wrong message to the impressionable young people of our country. I think it's admirable that Aikman showed his respect for getting a degree. Maybe he can make something out of himself now. It's an old question, but does the "role model" thing still matter?

From: Gonzalez, John
To: Ford, Bob; Fox, Ashley
Subject: Role models

You can find suitable role models across all walks of life and all professions. But the reverse is true, too. There are also some really crummy people out there who you wouldn't want as examples for young kids. That's why it's so silly for people to say athletes must be role models. Some of them are genuine and nice. And some of them are guys you wouldn't want to turn your back on even for a second. They're a lot like daily newspaper editors that way.

It's great that Aikman got his degree and seems to be leading a solid life. But if he had turned out to be a total jerk, it wouldn't bother me. I expect athletes to run and jump and throw and catch and to do all of that well. Otherwise, I don't expect anything.

From: Fox, Ashley
To: Ford, Bob;
Subject: Role models

Zing, zing.

I always think it's cool when an athlete goes back and gets his or her degree years after the fact, even though they don't have to. Like Vince Carter. Or Shaq. Or now Aikman. But before we heap too much praise on Aikman, how much of a sacrifice did he really make? I mean, unless he finished via correspondence, Aikman got to hang out in Westwood, one of the coolest places on Earth. I can see him hanging at the W, walking to class clutching a chai latte, sitting in the lecture hall looking at all the . . . furniture. It's UCLA, not some little community college in a fly-over state.

From: Gonzalez, John
To: Ford, Bob; Fox, Ashley
Subject: Role models

Love Westwood. Reminds me of La Salle. Except for the "coolest place on Earth" stuff. And the . . . furniture. Otherwise, just like my college experience.

From: Ford, Bob
To: Gonzalez, John; Fox, Ashley
Subject: Role models

I don't know, John. Sunset Boulevard and Lehigh Avenue always seemed about the same to me.

As for the role models, it is whether they should be or should not be. That's the point Charles Barkley always missed. The fact is that kids, and adults, do like to emulate what their heroes do. It would be nicer if the heroes were teachers, scientists, and daily newspaper editors, but that's not the way it is.