Monday, December 21, 2009

The only Heroes are on NBC

Tiger Woods' fallout has led to several columns bemoaning the fall of another hero - a role model who fell from his perch like so many have and so many will. But all my life, I've believed that people need to stop looking to athletes for perfection and redefine what is truly worthy of "heroism."

First off, I thought after 9/11 we had a moratorium on throwing around the hero. Heroes don't show off athletic talent, they save lives, make a difference. Anyways I digress.

Athletes have been the target of hero worship since Babe Ruth became the first celebrity athlete of the modern age (1920's). From the Babe to Mickey Mantle to Joe DiMaggio, athletes were treated like immortal royalty - epitomized by the late John Updike referring Ted Williams turning down a curtain call in his final game by saying "Gods do not answer letters."

Blame it on the media for not reporting the dirt athletes did until the 1970's and blame it on the media for building them up to be legends (especially in baseball). It's why Mickey Mantle was a role model despite his alcoholism, the Babe despite his womanizing and DiMaggio despite being a jerk.

As a kid I disagreed with Charles Barkley when he said "I am not a role model" - I figured well yeah you are because you're in the spotlight and have a responsibility (of course I didn't see the WHOLE commerical). Nowadays, I agree with him because if kids look up solely to athletes and entertainers without parental guidance, it's on the parents for giving kids a false hope WITHOUT a dose of reality and relying on someone (a stranger) to do their job.

I looked up to men like Grant Hill, A.C. Green and David Robinson, men who had character and worked hard to maintain it in the public eye. But even then, I was temper my expectations a bit on heroes because people will let you down - they can do great things, but they can also fall

I was a big Bill Clinton fan in junior high, middle school. I remember voting for him in our mock election back in elementary school where he won overwhelmingly. But when he admitted that he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, I was sad but far from devastated. Give credit to my folks for using it as a teaching moment to remember people aren't perfect.

Kobe Bryant showed me this in 2003. He was someone I held in high regard. The 24-year old dynamo with 3 rings and then it all crashed down in Colorado. I remember Dan Shanoff's Daily Quickie on ESPN having a cartoon of a crashed Kobe statue from a pedestal and thinking that's how many felt - crushed.

But again, it showed me people aren't perfect. And when you idolize someone, you have to remember that beyond the mask of sports/entertainment/business (Peep "Wall Street")/life, they are people and you have to "idolize" them for who they are not what they do.

Heroes/Role Models as perfect people is a concept that died when Adam + Eve sinned. I've always said the best role models are those who try to carry themselves the right way, handle their flaws with humility and recover with the same grace/dignity as they did before.

That's why I say that if you're looking for a hero - check your local comic book store, NBC on Monday nights, or the men and women in uniform that protect and serve us everyday. Don't look at people who entertain you because more than likely, they'll fail you unless you expect this going in. Also, if you don't expect perfection from your friends, why expect it from strangers?

Today, I am grateful for the men like my late father, my godbrother Ron and other men at my church who helped mold me into who i am today. I'm grateful to my mom, sister, aunts, female cousins and friends for teaching me how to treat and interact with ladies.

Normal people who do something intangible that's outstanding - shouldn't that be what heroes are about?

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