Athletes are not heroes. Let's make that abundantly clear.
Superman. Hercules. Luke Skywalker.
They are heroes.
Heroes and heroines date back to the Greek mythology and ancient Greek religion. The term hero and heroine grew from there, becoming more loosely used along the way.
Originally, and most significantly, heroes and heroines were personified by bravery, courage and self-sacrifice. Such traits are some of the most pure and humane characteristics we can hope to attain. Bravery and courage require maturity, confidence and an internal sense of strength. Self-sacrifice puts one's personal gains aside for the greater good of humanity. Selflessness rids our nation of utter tyranny or anarchy.
Why do we cheer for heroes?
No one wants to be a villain. We all want to be liked in this world. Acceptance drives positivity, and positivity illuminates happiness.
No one dreams of being a pariah. We all have an innate desire to cheer for good over evil. Our society magnifies this predisposition, through our culture, the movies, and of course, sports.
Athletes are not heroes.
Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Michael Vick.
They all made mistakes. They are not infallible. They are not immortal.
Because, they are people.
The term "hero" is flimsily used in sports. When St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese hit the game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, he was proclaimed "the hero" because he "saved the day."
Sports can feel like war. In that moment, just for a few seconds, maybe Freese personified a hero with his courage to swing the bat, knowing if he missed, the Cardinals would lose. His effort served his team and Cardinals fans.
That's where the analogy ends. When Freese touched home plate that night, he was mortal again and pervious to the same moral and ethical code we all live by.
Role models are the closest thing we have to heroes.
They inspire us. They motivate us. And, we forgive them for being human.
Many kids dream of becoming professional athletes. That's great.
Many kids look up to the current stars in pro sports. That's scary.
The sports industry has never been puppies and flowers, but dozens of athletes have been humiliated and humanized with drug testing, camera phones and lawsuits.
Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o are the latest editions to the mortality of sports. Armstrong came clean to Oprah about taking performance enhancing drugs. Te'o claimed he was the victim of a hoax that involved a non-existent girlfriend dying of leukemia.
They are two completely different stories with different victims and different degrees of national relevance. But, both stories are linked by one humane quality Armstrong, nor Te'o, exhibited: proper judgment.
Many kids idolize the LeBrons, the Jeters, the Crosbys of the sporting world. None of whom are model citizens either.
Some idolize a guy who was connected to a murder. Some idolize a guy who kicks players in the head and groin. Some idolize drug abusers, domestic abusers, adulterers and dogfighting conspirators.
Who they idolize is their own right, but it is my utmost hope, children remember the true role models.
Role models do not have to wear a jersey. They are the ones who make our community and our world a better place.
Parents, doctors, soldiers. Just to name a few.
They're the ones who serve and protect mankind, so the rest of us can enjoy our daily lives.
Are they perfect? No, no one's perfect.
But, in our mortal world, they're as close to heroes as we can get.
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To contact Jonah, send e-mail to Jonah.Javad@wgrz.com