Friday, May 19, 2006

Heroes

Driving in to work today, the sports radio guys on 1380 ESPN were debating whether Albert Pujols is starting to become "over-hyped." This week, for example, Albert is on the covers of both the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated; and Bernie Miklasz, the radio host and columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, related that the newspaper will be preparing a special Pujols section for a Sunday edition in June.

In the midst of the conversation, one of the talking heads observed that this is always what the media does--seize on a single individual and hype them to gigantic proportions. The local media did that with Mark McGwire in the late 1990s and they are doing it again with Pujols. And the reason they are doing it is that this sort of thing sells papers.

But why does it sell papers? Or for that matter, why do legions of Cardinals fans show up to the ballgames with Pujols jerseys (or Rolen, Edmonds, and Carpenter jerseys--I have a Rolen one myself)? No one asked or answered the question, but I think it gets down to the most basic matter of the heart. Human beings are wired to look for heroes.

And yet, all our heroes disappoint in the end. One clear example of that was McGwire himself, who has a section of local highway named after him because he broke Roger Maris' home run record. When he sat at the congressional hearing on steriods in March 2005 and let down his fans and supports with a lawyer-fed answer to the questions posted him, many people turned on him with a viciousness that speaks to broken hearts and shattered hopes. Even Miklasz, this morning, declared his vow passionately never to be taken in by an athlete in the same way as McGwire. It was less the objective voice of a journalist and more the bruised and violated voice of a erstwhile believer.

It all made me think of my favorite Steve Taylor song, "Hero":

When the house fell asleep
there was always a light
and it fell from the page to
the eyes of an American boy.

In a storybook land
I could dream what I read when
it went to my head I'd see
I wanna be a hero

chorus:
Hero it's a nice-boy notion
that the real world's gonna destroy
you know it's a Marvel comicbook Saturday matinee fairytale, boy

Growing older you'll find
that illusions are brought
and the idol you thought you'd be
was just another zero
I wanna be a hero

Heroes died when the squealers bought 'em off
died when the dealers got 'em off
welcome to the "in it for the money as an idol" show
when they ain't as big as life
when they ditch their second wife
where's the boy to go? gotta be a hero


When our heroes break our hearts, our response should not merely be the anger of betrayal. Nor is the answer to swear off looking for heroes; that is an impossibility, because we are wired to "look up" to others, to search for models and patterns, to cherish dreams and aspirations inculcated by others. Rather, we must come to the realization that all our human heroes, as flawed as they are, even biblical heroes or historical heroes, are meant to point us to the only one who is truly heroic, the only one who does not, cannot disappoint us, the only one who has truly done things that have never been seen before, Jesus himself.
When the house fell asleep
from a book I was led
to a light that I never knew
I wanna be your hero
and he spoke to my heart
from the moment I prayed
here's a pattern I made for you
I wanna be your hero

2 comments:

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Tom said...

Albert has been way underhyped the last three years or so. Things are just balancing out. Besides, he very well could be the greatest player of our lifetime. And he's a good buffer against all of the Barry Bonds hype.