Zak of All Trades: TMZ isn't where I look for my role models

If you took a survey of all the people who knew me well and asked them what they thought my column would be this week and you gave each of them 417 guesses, my bet would be that not one of those guesses would have been Justin Bieber.

Even still, here it is, early Friday morning, and I've got Bieber Fever — in a way — as I can't stop thinking about the kid.

Now sure, the fact that I can't stop thinking about him has nothing to do with his stunning good looks or his blossomed and having-already-peaked talent. Rather, it has everything to do with his arrest Thursday for allegedly driving under the influence while street racing.

CNN's website — one of the many that we check while at work for breaking
news updates — had Bieber's mug(shot) plastered all over it throughout the day on Thursday.

My Twitter feed — which is typically filled with sports news and memes of cats saying cute things — had been taken over by everyone becoming a TMZ-styled analyst of the kid's behavior.

Even at work, I heard those in the office — young and old — talking about the mishap and its ramifications on the world around us.

The Biebs — as I like to call him — is 19 years old, which means that he is not allowed to be drinking at all.

And, if the allegations about his DUI are true, he's probably in a bit of trouble.

And drag racing, most likely, is illegal in the part of the country where he decided to do so.

So, again, if allegations hold up, he's probably in a bit of trouble for that, too.

My bet? He gets off pretty light, like most celebrities seem to manage, and ends up doing OK for himself. And you know what? I'm OK with that.

My opinion? If you make all the resources in the world available to a 19-year-old kid — or a 25-year-old kid or 40-year-old man for that matter — he's more-than-likely going to find a way or 12 to get himself in trouble.

We see it all the time in the world of Hollywood and in the sports realm.

Kids (and I use the term "kids" to encompass far more than just those still high school age and younger) will be kids.

We hate that saying, don't we? "Kids will be kids" sounds like a cop-out, but it's undeniably true.

Little kids learn to experiment and press buttons to see what they can get away with. Kids who are 19 or 25 or 40 years old will often run the same experiment to see what they can get away with. It's human nature, whether we like it or not.

But here are the problems I have with all the talk that's surrounding the Biebs — or Miley Cyrus or whichever celebrity has recent fallen from the public's graces.

First of all, what they do and how they live is, quite frankly, none of our business.

I don't know the Biebs at all, and I probably never will. I feel a little bit sorry for him going through this stuff, and I hope he turns things around for himself.

But that's not because he's a celebrity. It's the same wish I'd have for anyone in his position — battling between what seems to be a rock and a hard place.

But the second thing, which really bugs me, is when people start talking about people in these shoes by saying that "lots of folks look up to them" and they "should be good role models."

We've come to a warped point, where we think that these folks owe us the decency of serving as good role models because we've contributed to their fame and fortune.

Growing up, so many fantasize about being among the rich and famous. I can honestly say that I never really aspired as such. Sure, I wondered what it'd be like, but I never really wanted to be famous.

The spotlight always seemed like too much pressure, and even at a young age, I could see that. (Luckily for me, God didn't grace me with enough talent to "go big" anyway.)

Being a role model is a lot of pressure, and it really isn't something that should be left up to a 19-year-old kid who, it would seem, can't even figure out which way the bill on his hat is supposed to point.

Justin Bieber didn't sign up to be a role model. He was a kid who displayed some talent and ran with it — probably with the help of some other folks who made out pretty well on the deal.

But taking the ball and running with it — becoming famous — isn't the same as signing up to be a role model — for you or for your kids.

The Biebs' "official" Twitter account has the following tagline: "Let's make the world better." As far as I can tell, that's about as far as his noticeable desire to be a role model extends.

So, is it really fair to expect him to be a role model when it's really not what he signed up for at all?

What's more, Justin Bieber more-than-likely doesn't want to be a role model.

Money? Yes, please. Fame? I'll have some of that, too. Role model? Whoa, slow down man; you're ruining my vibe.

You know what Justin Bieber wants to be? A kid. He's showing that, and for some reason, it's shocking the world.

Some 19-year-old kids go pepper a road sign with paintball guns for fun. Bieber (allegedly) got drunk and raced a super-expensive car down a blocked-off street.

He's showing us that he doesn't want to be a role model. He sings for a living. He's not a motivational speaker.

Charles Barkley, a former NBA player, once spoke about being a role model in a way that's stuck with me over the years: "I'm not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."

Point taken. Barkley — like Bieber — didn't sign up to be a role model and didn't want to be one, either.

And last, but certainly not least, Justin Bieber is not qualified to be a role model. This is not a knock on his character, but rather a simple observation.

At 19, there are very few who would be mature enough to be positive role models.

The rare few who pull it off typically fly under the radar, because TMZ
isn't following around the ones who have their heads on straight.

There's no gossip there.

When my favorite athletes are under the gun for doing questionable things, my world doesn't start to fall apart.

The guys who I watch play these games on TV — and get paid millions to do it — aren't my role models. They're my favorite players.

And the guys and gals who make my head bob when their songs come on the radio? They aren't my role models either. Just my favorite singers.

We want good role models, but we look in all the wrong places. If you want to find a good role model, my bet would be you don't have to look very far — whether it be at your church, in your family tree or in your community.

It takes the wisdom of years and the wear-and-tear of life to bring someone to a point where they want to be a role model.

But more importantly, it takes that wisdom and experience to qualify someone to be a role model.

Justin Bieber's got time to turn things around, and I hope he does. But even if he doesn't, it's none of my business, and it won't change who I look up to.

TMZ may not have any role models to offer me, but the world sure does.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit, and he's surrounded by plenty of role models a heckuva lot better and more qualified than the ones Hollywood and ESPN can offer him.