Through My Eyes: The rise and fall of heroes
No one loves heroes more than America. When they are at the peak of their stardom, we can't read about them or watch them on TV enough.
We want to know all about their personal lives. When we see them in commercials, we want to eat what they eat, wear what they wear, and in short we want to be just like them.
If you think that is a bit strong, just ask any young child who has aspirations of becoming an athlete. Whatever his sport is, he is trying to emulate his hero.
I have confessed to you before, that as a child, my mother would try to get me to eat a certain vegetable, and I would say, "No thanks." She would then say, "Oh, OK, but that's too bad." Of course I would ask why, and she would then say, "Because all athletes eat this."
"Pass it to me," would be my next statement.
I would eat it with great enthusiasm because I did not want to pass up any chance that would aid me in the pursuit of my dream.
The news, on both the front page and the sports page this past week, has been the great confession by Tour de France multi-winner Lance Armstrong that, after many years of great and forceful denial, he did indeed "dope" leading up to and during his many victories.
Why he chose the "Oprah" show as the vehicle to out himself, I do not know. Perhaps he expected a more sympathetic audience, but I don't think it turned out that way.
I suppose his greatest blow came when he heard his young son defending him, telling his friends, "My dad did not do that."
To which Armstrong had to say, "Son, you can't defend me anymore."
Can you imagine the pain of that? This is in no way intended to exonerate Armstrong for his crimes, but I'm sure he rues the day when he first encountered the thought of doping. He was probably aware that it was being done by other cyclists, but that is no excuse.
Let us switch sports for a moment and reference the incredible story of Notre Dames' linebacker Manti Te'o.
Te'o had a wonderful season. He became the first defensive player to really have a shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, denoting the best player in college football, and finished a close second.
Legends are born in sports out of great effort and overcoming great adversity. With that in mind, during the season, Te'o's grandmother died. While everyone was talking about how courageous it was for him to continue to play, here comes the news that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died on the very same day from leukemia.
Now, you can see how the legend begins to grow. However, it turns out the girlfriend never existed. She was a girl Te'o met online and talked on the phone with, but never met in person.
Your guess is as good as mine as to why anyone would want to do this. However, Te'o has admitted to the devastating effect this had on him after he knew the truth. Speculation is quick to recommend that he allowed this because it enhanced his mystique as a Heisman candidate.
There is also speculation that even Notre Dame officials allowed this. I find that hard to believe but it certainly has hurt the reputation of this ballplayer and has even caused concern in the NFL.
I wish I had the answers to all of this. But to all of you young athletes who are out there choking down vegetables that you don't particularly care for and sweating in the gym on a regular basis, allow me to tell you there are no shorts cuts. Do the work, make the effort and the end result will be success at its best.