Today the news broke that Lance Armstrong, seven time winner of the Tour de France cycling competition, was stripped of his titles due to doping and drug trafficking. He has decided not to fight the allegations which is considered about the same as a confession of guilt.
Lance is responsible for many good things in the world; one of which is the Livestrong Foundation that offers many free health tools for common folks, including the Daily Plate calorie and activity tracking system that I’ve spoke so highly of in the past.
I was reading an article this morning on how hard it is to see a “hero” like Lance fall among this massive web of lies. They also mentioned Joe Paterno, former head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, who was dismissed posthumously when it was discovered he’d been covering up a sexual abuse scandal for years for the sake of sports. The statue of him that had been erected in his honor on Penn State’s campus has been removed and put into storage in disgrace.
I’m sad about Lance, I admit – I like the guy. Joe I care less about.
Mostly though I’m confused as to why sports “heroes” exist in the first place.
Athletes are people who are worthy of admiration; they put an incredible amount of work and effort into their physical development for the sake of a very specific goal. However, there’s absolutely no reason why these people should ever be called “hero” in the first place.
Joe Paterno was really good at guiding players to win a game. That’s it, just a game. He made people happy and provided entertainment, maybe he helped positively guide the lives of some young people while he wasn’t busy destroying the lives of others – but there’s absolutely nothing heroic whatsoever about football. Ever. End of story.
The people who play it do so because you can make an incredible amount of money doing it as well as get famous and be considered important. That is neither a self sacrificing nor heroic motivation.
I can go a little easier on Lance because he at least used his fame and money to try to make the world better and healthier; inspiring cancer survivors to fight the disease and helping everyday ordinary people to achieve the best in health for themselves – but he was still never a hero.
A hero runs into a building that’s on fire, rather than out of it, just because it’s more important to them to save the life of a fellow human being than it is to stay safe.
A hero stands shoulder to shoulder with ten other complete strangers lifting a burning car so that one of them can crawl inside and drag a person to safety.
A hero is a group of ordinary civilians on an airplane deciding that putting a stop to terrorism in their midst is more important than protecting their own lives.
A hero is a soldier who trains, struggles and sacrifices for minimal pay, all to endure the most horrifying of living conditions and stand between unimaginable harm and the people at home who they love – because somebody has to.
A hero is somebody like my husband who doesn’t ignore the elderly stranger in a grocery store parking lot who seems to be struggling, but stops to ask her if she needs assistance and then goes home with her to put her groceries away and make absolutely sure she’s safe.
A hero is a Doctor with the skill and courage to put in the incredible amount of time and dedication to learning the intricacies of the human brain so that they can remove a tumor from said brain and restore a dying human being to an athlete. Lance Armstrong’s doctor is a hero, Lance is not.
I don’t think that the term “sports hero” should even exist in the first place. Granted, I’m not much of a sports fan. I like the Olympics and I enjoy ice hockey but that’s about it. They may be inspiring but the purpose of these people is entertainment and as such, they’re no more heroic than Lady Gaga or Pee Wee Herman. When they screw up and self destruct their lives, we are not witnessing the downfall of a hero – we are simply witnessing yet another human being succumbing to the flaws that plague us all.
If we weren’t making far too big a deal out of these people in the first place, it wouldn’t seem like such a tragedy.
I still believe that people should be paid based on societal importance as well as for skill. That means the salaries of professional sports players need to be switched with the salaries of those who teach our children – which one is really more important?
Which one is really a hero?