Brian Hamilton: Havner: Sports star … but only human
Even as it rolled off Charles Barkley’s lips nearly 20 years ago, we all knew it wasn’t true.
“I am not a role model.”
Yessir, Sir Charles, you were.
The moment athletes are placed upon that prominent pedestal of professional sports, there is no doubt – whether they like it or not – thousands of young athletes are looking up to them.
Of course, if parents have done their jobs, those professional sports stars aren’t the only role models in a young player’s eyes.
Yet, rest assured, they are role models.
There is nothing wrong with a young golfer looking up to the likes of a Tiger Woods.
Did I just write that? Yes, I did.
What Tiger Woods can do with a driver is worthy of the wide-eyed amazement of a young admirer. And how he became the best golfer in the world – the early morning trips to the practice green and countless hours at the driving range – is certainly a story worth sharing to anyone aspiring to great heights in life.
After all, hard work does pay dividends.
But beyond the athletic accomplishments and perpetual preparation put in to achieve them, parents should give pause before presenting any other aspect of star athletes as a case study for their children to follow.
Why? Quite simply, because they’re not the infallible objects of our affection we like to make them out to be.
As most of Nevada County knows by now, one of our very own sports stars found himself in headlines of stories that had nothing to do with his athletic ability or relentless work ethic his week.
Spencer Havner, the 2001 Nevada Union High School graduate who starred as a linebacker at UCLA before fighting his way onto the roster with the Green Bay Packers, is alleged to have been riding his motorcycle under the influence during an early morning crash that sent him to the hospital one week ago.
According to the California Highway Patrol, 27-year-old Havner lost control of his bike and crashed, fracturing a shoulder blade and sustaining several cuts and abrasions.
Beyond the initial reports from the CHP, little more is known about Havner’s condition or the status of DUI charges stemming from his arrest. Earlier this week, Nevada County District Attorney Cliff Newell said his office was awaiting a police report before determining whether Havner will face charges.
Several attempts to contact Havner and his agent, Mark Humenik, along with representatives with the Packers went unanswered this week.
Humenik told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a statement that “Spencer suffered only minor injuries this weekend in an accident, including a broken scapula, but he should be fully recovered in short order. Despite unfounded media reports to the contrary, he has not been charged criminally with driving under the influence of alcohol or any other substance.”
Of course, whether or not he is charged, the CHP has confirmed he was arrested. And until Newell’s office makes the determination, we’re not likely to hear much from Havner, his agent or the Packers.
Meanwhile, Havner has been the subject of plenty of speculation – whether he will face a fine from the NFL or whether the crash will cost him the roster spot he fought so hard to earn.
And, of course, the bloggers have had a field day with the poor judgment he reportedly showed in getting on a bike without a helmet after allegedly partaking.
It comes with the territory of being a star athlete.
That’s a level Havner somewhat attained this season, by catching four touchdowns in the NFL regular season – and another in a 51-45 overtime Wild Card playoff loss to the Cardinals – after adding the tight-end position to his repertoire.
Even a Sacramento Bee columnist took a shot at Havner on Thursday, opening a piece with “What is it about pro football players from the Sacramento area? Can any of them behave?”
He then went on to group Havner with former Grant stars Donte Stallworth (DUI manslaughter) and Onterrio Smith (think “Whizzinator”), along with former Valley standouts Rae Carruth (murder) and Jeremiah Pharms (robbery).
Still, such broad statements about sports stars, and perpetuation of the old “dumb-jock” stereotype wasn’t exactly helped by Havner this week.
As I said, it comes with the territory.
But for all those parents out there in our own backyard who have pointed to Havner as an example for their future Bruins, Falcons or Miners to follow, don’t be so quick to cast him off.
What happened in an apparent unfortunate – and, at this point, still alleged – lack of judgment should not diminish lessons that can be taken from Spencer Havner.
He’s still the same guy who, after going undrafted by the NFL and being cut from a regular-season roster three straight seasons, stuck it out and continued to chase his dream.
He’s the same guy who accepted practice team assignments, punishing his body for the good of the team without the prospect of playing each week.
He’s the same guy whose determination, hard work and sheer belief in himself – when few others believed – was finally rewarded with an opportunity last fall.
And he’s the same guy who was ready to make the most of that opportunity on his game’s grandest stage and actually willed his own dream to come true.
But, yes, he’s also the same guy we read about in that police report this week, after an apparent lapse in judgment that could have met a much more tragic ending.
Of course, the only thing we know that proves for certain at this point is that he, too, is human. And, unfortunately, it appears in this case that the kids in our community can learn from him in that respect, as well.
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. Contact him via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4240.
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