Friday, July 27, 2007

Larger Than Life

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketI remember as a kid, reading all sorts of "hero" books. One of my favorites was a biography of Babe Ruth. He was an orphan who lived out the "rags-to-riches" American Dream. He came from nothing, yet became a person whose name was known for many generations. I think back to the Lou Gehrig story, a great athlete who played in 2,130 consecutive games, and who heroically stared down the evil disease that bears his name to this day.

There was a time when, if you became the Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, you were American Royalty. I remember following the exploits of Muhammad Ali, who was probably the biggest self-promoter in history. He'd boldly predict the round in which he would knock his opponent out, and then, more often that not, go out and fulfill that prophecy. And once the battles were done, he'd be the embodiment of humility and grace.

Ruth set a Home Run record that stood for nearly 40 years. When the time came, Hank Aaron broke that record amidst a tremendous buzz. The attention wasn't all positive though, as Aaron faced death threats warning him to back off the chase. So the new record was one of both athletic greatness and immense courage.

So what's happening now? Barry Bonds of the SF Giants is on the verge of eclipsing that record, yet how many people seem to care? He's surly, has minimal contact with fans, and is difficult with the press. Think back to Mike Tyson, who was the most formidable boxing talent to emerge in decades, yet what did he do with the fame?

I wonder how many of us, off the top of our heads, could even name the current World Heavyweight Champion in boxing. When was the last time any of us lined up outside the stadium after the game in hopes of garnering some athlete's autograph?

But yet, I'd bet that each and every one of us could name an athlete who is in trouble with the law, or a celebrity who's been arrested for DUI in the last month.

It seems now that "accomplishment" and "fame" are no longer partners. As a matter of fact, "fame" has become confused with "notoriety" more and more every day. If you look back at the histories of Ruth, Gehrig and the like, there are countless photos of them posing with adoring fans, with kids, basking in the limelight of that adoration. Sure, we as a society love to focus on the shortcomings of our Greats, as we know Ruth loved the nightlife, and probably drank a few more beers than he should have. And some will point out that Ali had problems with the Draft Board. But are those things really capable of diminishing the greatness borne by these people?

I jokingly peeve about the use of the word "amazing" in our culture. Seems every day, some star, some athlete, some "famous" person is described as "amazing." Sit and read about the struggles of Lou Gehrig, the accomplishment of the 1969 NY Mets, or what Ali did in the ring, and you might understand why the dilution of the word "amazing" gets under my skin.

I don't deny that there probably are some great people out there today, I'm just wondering why we're not hearing about them so much these days. I think my point here is, who are my kids reading about? Who will my grandchildren be reading biographies of, under the guise of "heroes"?

Who would you want your grandchildren reading about?


  1. I think part of the problem with today's athletes and stars is so many of them seem to think they deserve the headlines and I could be wrong but the "stars" of yester-year had at least a little more humility. The paparazzi was far less than it was today.

    In the days of Babe Ruth, etc there was more respect for privacy, the media had a little more respect for people as well...say oh the President you didn't read ugliness in the newspapers about them during those days, there was a respect for the office.

    Sadly I think of our children want to grow up reading about hero's they'll have to go back to the same books that we read because there's very few today that will have them written about them at least that won't have vulgarness throughout.

  2. Anonymous1:11 PM

    Hi Jimmy...
    Great post! I worry about the 'so-called' kind of hero's that are out there for my kids to look up to. It's rare these days that we hear of someone with real intent and good character making a difference in our world. So much is focused on who has just been caught with a DUI or drugs, so many 'trainwrecks' out there.
    I just hope my kids know when they see a true hero, someone with a true heart, knowing when to give and help others....I hope they will be that.

    (from the lost journal ~Letting It all Sink In) LOL

  3. Anne/ksquester2:39 PM

    Here's something else very interesting. Ali and Tyson both have homes in Paradise Valley, AZ. (Phoenix) and Ali lives in a modest home at the bottom of a hill and Tyson lives in a huge home at the top of the hill. Tyson is always in trouble in Phoenix. He is known to frequent strip clubs and beat up a few women. They are afraid to press charges. He also gets run out of every neighborhood he moves into. Ali, on the other hand works very hard to raise money for the Barrow Neurologic Institute. Anne/ksquester

  4. Funny you should write about this today. As I was surfing the net looking at news stories the entertainment section caught my eye: Nicole Richie arrested for DUI and sentenced to four days in prison. What is up with celebrities? From Paris, to Lindsay, to Britney, to Nicole.......ridiculous doesn't even begin to describe.

    I have a hard time with athletes now. Gone are the days of pro athletes who played because they actually loved the game. Today our athletic teams seem chuck full of whiners, drunks, steroid users, guys w/ anger-management problems, jerks, sex addicts, etc. They're not much to look up to and/or emulate. (There are exceptions.)

    It drives me crazy the amount of 'notoriety' a lot of these celebrities get. They are poor role models and they don't know squat about politics (they need to keep their big, dumb mouths shut).

  5. I echo your sentiments. I think you should start writing your own biography for your own children and grandchildren to read. There is no superhero quite like a dad.

  6. .

    Not to be fluffy, but amazing is totally over used.

    Sez Thmazing.

    Whom it directly affects.

  7. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Well said, Jimmy. The real heroes out there will probably remain unknown. They're not doing anything, in the media's eyes at least, that is newsworthy. You really have to search high and low these days, outside the mainstream media, to find a true hero.

    Robin in Texas

  8. lets the news right now is a football "star" who makes so much money for the team that they're continuing to play him even though he was caught with his perverbial pants down illegally using his animals in horrible dog fights!!! now there's a hero for the future!! not that i was ever a "sports person" before, but now I never will be as the atheletes of today are not even a shadow of what they were in the past. It's all about the money & endoresements. Nothing about the game is more important to them. Our society needs to re-evaluate, no, re-establish is a better word, it's values because they're completely out of the ball park. Very sad indeed.

  9. Anonymous4:59 PM

    Actually Patti, Michael Vick, QB for the Atlanta Falcons is not being allowed to participate in training camp. Nike and others have put the sale of his products on hold until his trial for alleged participation in dog fighting is over. Whatever the outcome of his trial I believe he'll be let go from the Falcons. And Jimmy, I saw an ad yesterday on CNN for a program about Heroes. Guess my search is over.

    Robin in Texas


I love comments. I won't lie about that!