Charles Barkley once said it best: "I am not a role model."

The NBA Hall of Famer was simultaneously lauded and scorned for the statement made in a 1990s Nike commercial.

Some thought he was shirking responsibility that he had accepted when choosing to enter the public eye. Others championed his right to live life the way he wanted, without having to regard anyone who might be following him and modeling their life after his.

As with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in between. When you choose celebrity - or does it choose you? - you're committing yourself to a life of public scrutiny. Everything you say and every act you commit has the ability to be openly criticized. What you do with that responsibility, of course, is up to you.

Similarly, as members of the general public, we have the ability, if we so choose, to idolize those who live their lives on our television screens. As with any action, there are potential consequences to those actions. In many cases, we can wind up disappointed when people we look up to fall short of the expectations we have for them.

Recently, two people with squeaky-clean public images have betrayed the public's trust, likely in irreversible ways.

I grew up on "The Cosby Show" like many in my generation. Bill Cosby has always sort of felt like a grandfather to me, as much as anyone on television can. I used to exhaustively watch his stand-up comedy performance, "Himself", as a child and it remains one of my favorites today. His hit show on NBC was, of course, also a favorite.

The numerous allegations in the news, though, of his sexual deviancy have me and others in a state of total shock. How could this person, who I placed on a pedestal, disappoint me so much? If the lovable Cosby is capable of committing such horrific acts, what are the rest of us capable of?

In a bit of a different way, I've always looked up to Brian Williams. The longtime NBC news anchor is the news voice of a generation. We trust him to deliver us the biggest moments and the most important news.

He's warm, engaging, has a surprising sense of humor but is, above all, trustworthy. At least that's what we thought until this past week.

The bizarre story of him forgetting that he wasn't in fact shot down out of a helicopter by a grenade is truly remarkable. In all honesty, it's an act of indiscretion that could very well cost him his job at NBC. The most important thing in a news man is trust, and it'll be difficult to trust Williams moving forward. How he thought he'd get away with that I don't think I'll ever understand.

Ultimately, Bill Cosby and Brian Williams falling from grace doesn't directly impact my life too much. Their situations, though, do serve as a lesson to be mindful of who I place my trust in.

You never really know anyone, do you? As much as you think you do, never underestimate the ability people have to surprise you.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

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