|Nails had his issues even back in his playing days.|
He was a Philly type of player, which is saying a lot since he came from the New York Mets. With his big wad of chew and bulging forearms, it was easy to jump on the Nails bandwagon. He led those guys on Macho Row in 1993 to the World Series, and although it ended about as badly as possible, he had entrenched himself into Philadelphia sports lore.
One of the memories I have that best encapsulates that childhood/hero worship mentality was I was at a Phillies game with my dad. Dykstra was hurt, and in an age where the last news update you heard was in the morning paper, I assumed the Dude would still be out for this game. As the Phillies PA announcer went through the line-up he said, "Leading off, #4 Lenny DYKSTRA!" I turned to my dad and my dad turned to me with a wow expression on our faces. I was happy the Dude was in the line-up, and I'd get to see him play. It's moments like that where you realize an impact a player can have on a young person's life. When all you know is the player on the field. What he does in a baseball uniform is all that matters. It's a fleeting feeling that as a 28 year old, you don't get anymore. With Twitter and ESPN who knows if any kid can get that feeling anymore.
The reasons athletes are role models or icons to a kid is obvious. The ability, the memories, the money are all integral to making a kid want to grow up and be like someone. While I can say I did want to play for the Phillies growing up, I never truly wanted to be Lenny Dykstra, but he was that idea I had for what a baseball player is.
My childhood idea of what being a baseball player would be like was sentenced to prison on Monday. Dykstra's post baseball career has been even more unpredictable than his playing career. There was Lenny the successful investor, Lenny the millionaire Wall Street mogul, Lenny the entrepreneur, Lenny the racist, Lenny the sexist, Lenny the liar, Lenny the thief, and now Lenny the criminal.
It's disappointing for sure, and throughout the perplexing rise and more understandable downfall of Dykstra, it's just another example of an athlete failing to live up to the unreasonable and truly unnatural expectation of athletes to be role models.
These are people that have just as many issues, problems, and vices as anyone. Only they're in the spotlight and have the means to live as recklessly as they like. Whether it's Lenny Dykstra or fellow Philly athlete fallouts Allen Iverson and Terrell Owens, the fall of sports players is becoming even more frequent and disappointing.
As fans, we shouldn't expect anything other than human fault and error from athletes in their post-playing career, but that doesn't mean it still doesn't leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. The downfall of a human doesn't soil the memories of your childhood, they merely make you sad that a player you hardly knew, that you held in such reverence could fall so, so far.