Heroes Get Remembered, But Legends Never Die

As childhoods go, mine was relatively uneventful.

I have no super traumatic hauntingly bad memories. (At least if I do have any super traumatic hauntingly bad memories, my psyche is doing a stellar job of repressing them.) I was never cut from a basketball team. Never abandoned by my parents. I can scarcely even remember ever skinning my knee when trying to ride a bike. I was never a child television star. (Contrary to popular belief, it was Gary Coleman, not I, who played Arnold Jackson on the hit 1980’s tv series Diff’rent Strokes.) In short, up until age thirteen or so, my life was boring. *

With no real obstacles or problems, I found drama and excitement in baseball. I became an ardent fan of the Chicago Cubs. My mood rose and fell with the successes and failures of Kevin Tapani and Mark Grace. Baseball taught me more about life than any preschool class ever could. I learned the concept of the sacrifice. I learned of the joy of rooting for the underdog. I learned the value of loyalty.

Baseball gave me an understanding of history. I dilligently studied the games past. I becamed enamored with Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Ted Williams. Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, and Roger Maris. These men were heroes from decades before. Baseball also introduced me to my first heroes. Ken Griffey. Bo Jackson. Barry Bonds. Mark McGwire. Sammy Sosa. They were my heroes. On the diamond, they were untouchable. They could do anything.

But that was a long time ago.

Now? Hell, we barely treat Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa as humans, let alone heroes. Why have Mays and Mantle and Ruth withstood decades of worship while Bonds and McGwire couldn’t even make it eight years?

The damn media.

Investigative sports journalists spent countless hours digging up dirt on our modern day heroes. Selena Roberts, she of the incredibly wrong Duke lacrosse stories, wrote a book detailing Alex Rodriguez’s alleged steroid abuse. (For the record, some people believe she might be as wrong about A-Rod as she was the Duke lacrosse players. Seriously, how are more people not upset about Roberts and the Duke lacrosse players? She spent two years attacking these guys and then, after she was proved wrong, refused to apologize. Wouldn’t the equivalent of this be a judge sentencing a guy to death, and then after the guilty verdict was overturned the judge just saying, “Fine, maybe he’s innocent, but, come on! He’s a douchebag!”) Rick Reilly accosted Sammy Sosa with a urine cup. The list goes on.

That’s why our modern heroes have such a shorter shelf life. Ted Williams legacy has endured half a century because no one spent time exposing their misdeeds off the field. Sure, in later years some stories of  legendary misdeeds have come out. Mickey Mantle liked to drink. A lot. Pete Rose was a gambler. But, for the most part, their names remain remarkably clean. I could not tell you one thing about Willie Mays not related to baseball. And that’s how I want it.

Sometimes, I just want my heroes to be superheroes. I don’t want A-Rod to be just like me. I want him to be bigger than me. I want him to be better. I don’t want to hear about how his teammates make fun of him and how he cheats on his wife.

A few weeks ago the New York Times broke the story that Sammy Sosa allegedly was one of the 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003. I thought that was very troubling news. Sammy Sosa was my guy. A Cub. I didn’t want him to be a drug user. Sure, if pressed, I probably would have admitted to assuming he was juicing, but I never wanted to hear the Times report it. Suddenly, any doubt I that I had evaporated. That sucks.

I understand that journalists like Roberts and Reilly and countless others have a job to do. They have a duty to uncover the truth and report. I get it. But, at the same time, can’t they also back off a little bit? If A-Rod kills someone, yeah, I want people to investigate. If he starts murdering hookers Jack the Ripper style, I give Selena Roberts the go ahead to nose around a little bit. But if it’s just a matter of him using a drug that makes him better at his job and causes no one harm but himself, I think she should back off.

Everything else around us kind of sucks; maybe what we really need are heroes.

*What happened at thirteen? I discovered girls.


1 Response to “Heroes Get Remembered, But Legends Never Die”

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