Tuesday, April 29, 2008

On becoming agnostic towards hero worship

I've struggled with writing what I've been thinking and conceptualizing over the last few years. I'm not particularly philosophical, generally speaking, nor am I smart enough to succinctly capture some of those thoughts.

But the newest Clemens "issue", has somehow pushed me to try putting words to a slowly growing feeling towards hero worship. So here it is:

I've become agnostic towards the Temple Of The Holy Athlete.

I'm not ready to declare myself an athiest since I still want to believe and hope in the best of people, especially my favorite athletes, but I've given up worship at the Temple. I still believe in guys like Jeter (not perfect, I know), John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera, Mike Lowell, etc.

I'm not really sure why it's finally coming to this. There have been horrible, spoiled, frustrating, maddening, revolting athletes for ages. I went to college with Derrick "whoopdedamndoo" Coleman. I owned tickets to watch the mid-90's Knicks. I watched Strawberry and Steve Howe "blow" their careers. I was disgusted by the way Bonds treated nearly everyone. Mike Vick. The Josh Howard "admission" this week. Shawn Kemp, period. The list goes on and on.

I'm trying not to sound or act with a righteous indignation, but how do I explain to my boys, ages 8 and 5, what Clemens is accused of doing? PED use, alleged adultry, alleged statutory rape, and not to mention (likely) lying to a Congressional Committee. [This is not purely an anti-athlete rant; I harbor the same feelings towards the Spears family, Lindsay Lohan, etc. of the Hollywood circuit. I've got to explain how Zoey 101 got pregnant when she's just 15? puh-lease.]

Where does this come from? The fact that these athletes are treated differently than everyone else as soon as their talents are noticed certainly must play a role. The fact that others with less talent and less initiative try to cling to these people, hoping the crumbs of success fall in their laps also must play a role. The enablers are everywhere, looking to latch onto the comet's tail.

But, these guys act as if they are better and more deserving of everything than anyone else. That's what makes it all so difficult. When the slightest bit of humility is almost the sign of the apocolypse, well, I just don't know...

So now Clemens, at his own behest, has opened the kimono of his personal life. The life of a gifted, yet flawed, superstar athlete. We're going to see how easy it was for him (and others) to treat women like disposable razors while feigning being an upstanding citizen, husband, son, father, brother. We're going to see how legions of yes-men enabled a pattern that ultimately led to the unwinding of Hall Of Fame career.

Any wonder why I've become agnostic?

Of course I will still root for my favorite teams and players, but the hero worship is long gone. So how do I balance being a fan and instilling fandom in my boys with balancing their young hero worship? They collect jerseys and I try to get them ones of players who represent the "good" in sports but who knows. They each have a Carmello Anthony jersey (thanks for the 2003 NCAA title), even though I know he's not a saint. But I certainly make an effort to get them players who (I think) represent the good in sports. Nash, Pujols, LeBron, Mo, Jeter, Jordan, etc.

I'm open to suggestions but I'm no longer worshipping at the Temple Of The Holy Athlete.

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