A high school state basketball championship is something to savor for players, coaches, parents and an entire student body. How unfortunate that Provo High's recent 4A crown was tarnished by three players' acts of pregame petty theft.

Instead of joining the celebration following a hard-fought win, the perpetrators left the court in handcuffs. That is not the way sports dreams should be capped.A cloud hangs over what should be a season of celebration due to apparently impulsive acts by three youths described by their coach and others as "good kids." They undoubtedly are. The whole episode has to hurt them as much or more than others.

Yet sometimes athletes young and old don't think through the consequences of their actions or their impacts on others, including youngsters who look up to them regardless of how they see themselves. It's called example, and it can be a weighty word to wield.

Despite claims by NBA bad boy Charles Barkley - who is nothing akin to three fresh-faced Bulldog ballplayers - that sports stars are not role models, they are. It may not be something they seek but is a burden bestowed by a society obsessed with competition and winning.

The healthiness of that is fodder for another discussion.

Though a letterman's cloak does not shield a youngster from misdeeds, it often opens doors of opportunity at all levels of play, including high school. Those doors may include college scholarships or perhaps just social acceptance and positive fraternization with teammates.

But it comes with expectations and rules, as it does to anybody - athlete or not. And when principles of honor and integrity and trust are violated, there is disappointment and regret.

It is too bad three otherwise good young men - along with their teammates, coaches, parents and friends at Provo High School - have had a forceful and public reminder of that fact.