Adrian Peterson and Hero Worship

I graduated from The University of Oklahoma in 2006.  I was fortunate enough to see Adrian Peterson burst onto the scene.  I remember watching Adrian Peterson’s first collegiate game against the mighty Bowling Green State University Falcons.  I remember standing (because you don’t sit in the student section) with a friend watching this specimen of athleticism.

Adrian Peterson was a great Sooner.  His freshman year he finished second in the Heisman balloting behind Matt Leinart.  Adrian Peterson is a phenomenal running back.  Countless stories have been written about what he did last year less than a year removed from major knee surgery.  As an avid fantasy football player, I owe Peterson a huge thank you for carrying so many of my teams to fantasy victory.

Like a lot of people I was saddened to hear about the death of Peterson’s 2 year old son.  As a father, that is the nightmare scenario.  My stomach turns just thinking about what I would do and how I would react if I lost one of my girls.  The outpouring of support for Peterson was well-documented throughout all of the sports world.  I mourn with Adrian and the mother of the child for their loss.  I weep for the loss of a child.

However, Peterson is no hero.  It is the story that surrounds his son’s death that proves this.  As the emotional reaction began to subside and the truth about Peterson’s behavior as a father began to surface it became clear that Peterson, although a superstar athlete, was no hero.  The fact that Peterson had only met his 2 year old son 2 months prior to his death reveals that Peterson does not deserve the status of hero that we are so quick to bestow on him.  Since this tragedy, further stories have surfaced that Peterson has had multiple kids with multiple women.

On one hand, I think we have set ourselves up for failure.  We have mistakenly translated incredible athletic ability with morality and that is our mistake.  Some of our expectations for our professional athletes are unrealistic.  I have written on how it is unfair that we placed so much weight and expectation on Tim Tebow in a blog that I wrote in January 2012.  (See “Tebowing” on my blog:

On the other hand, this serves as an opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities.  Our heroes are not NFL running backs or other professional athletes.  Our heroes are fathers who take time to lead their households.  Our heroes are parents who take the time to frankly talk about God’s purpose for spiritual health, sex, work, and many of the other pressing issues or our day.  Our heroes are fathers and mothers.  Our heroes are pastors and teachers.  Our heroes are those who invest in one another and in all things point to Christ.

It is ok to continue to watch Adrian Peterson.  It is ok to have Adrian Peterson on your fantasy team.  Check that…it’s not ok to have Adrian Peterson on your fantasy, you should trade him to me.  What is not ok is to make Adrian Peterson (or any other athlete) something that he is not: a replacement for the true heroes in our lives.

Phillip Larsen is a follower of Christ and a member of West Metro Community Church in Yukon, OK.  He is a published author who released his first book: “Suit Up” along with an accompanying 4 week small group study associated with the book.  “Suit Up” is available at and on Amazon.  He also manages a blog at


About larsenphillip

I'm an imperfect disciple of Jesus Christ. I am learning that my walk with Jesus gets deeper when I drop the presumptions that I have and simply follow him. I get frustrated when people put God in a box, and presume to know how He will reach individuals, work in peoples lives, and advance His kingdom. If Tony Campolo or Jim Wallis were to call me and ask me to work for them for free...I probably would. I think one day I'll write a book, and I am a nut for STL Cardinal baseball.
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