Seems we’ve been murmuring, “Say it ain’t so!” a lot lately. Dan Marino having an affair. Another bunch of athletes linked to PEDs. The recent confession of Lance Armstrong. And now the shocking revelations in the Oscar Pistorius murder inquiry.
If you allow it to, it can leave you a little depressed, even jaded.
We love to build up heroes and make them superhuman. Then we’re crushed to find out they’re only human after all. The media excels at this and just when someone is at the height of popularity, they do a take down piece playing to all the most prevalent memes. But maybe the problem is the expectations we set…
Playing a sport with extraordinary skills doesn’t make you a hero. It makes you an extraordinary athlete.
As a Miami resident, I can tell you Dan Marino is beloved here and done a lot of charitable work. Lance Armstrong used his fame to help and inspire others on a level few have ever done. And Oscar Pistorius’ yes I’ll say it – heroic – efforts in the Olympics raised hopes for millions around the world. And yes, they have made mistakes, because they are still human.
So maybe we should appreciate the inspiration they provided for us, and redefine our definition of heroes. The surface answer would say stop looking to the sports world for heroes. But the stories of Amstrong and Pistorious were bigger than sports. They inspired us with the power of the human spirit. And for the same reason, then disappointed us just as profoundly. We would be wise to remember that the motivation to win a race, a championship, or a medal isn’t always the best incentive to do the right thing.
If we refine the definition, there are still plenty of heroes out there. The media doesn’t cover these stories, but that doesn’t make them any less heroic.
I have lots of heroes: One of them is my mom, a single mother who raised three kids knocking on doors selling AVON. And then my sister Liese, who had to raise her own two kids, when she lost her husband to cancer. My friend Miguel Ramos who took in a baby girl in foster care and then adopted her. Baxter Richardson, the schoolteacher who came in my jail cell and told me I was capable of great things. My friends John Duffy and Frank Sweeny who adopted a boy from Kids in Distress.
The first responders who protect us in danger are true heroes. So are the volunteers at your local hospice. And the teachers who teach for the love, not the money. The coaches, counselors and scoutmasters who teach our children the principles of a life well lived. Parents who are raising children with special needs might just skip a level and instantly go to Superhero.
Heroes are human and they make mistakes. But if we find the right heroes and celebrate them for true heroism – there are still plenty to believe in.
So let’s not lament the heroes who have failed to live up to our expectations – but celebrate the many other ones that do, every day.