Heroes, Trolls, Idolization, Condemnation

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” ~ Maya Angelou

Who were your heroes growing up? Who are your heroes now? I bet for many of us the answers to these two questions are quite different. I know in my case that is definitely true. Growing up my entire life was centered around sports. My heroes were athletes. Steve Young, Peyton Manning, Chipper Jones – their performances on the field were what made them like Hercules to me: not quite a god, but more than a man.

As I grew older and more mature, although minimally, my idea of who my heroes were changed. I started to appreciate the every day moments and acts of others that were anything but ordinary. Like my parents working hard every day to give my sister and I a life where we never had to worry or want for anything. The fact that they never missed any of my sporting events. Even after moving a thousand miles away, my mom still came back to Michigan for three months each spring to watch me play Junior College baseball. Or that they both dealt with major medical issues but never made it seem like our life was any different than the day before. They are, and forever will be, my greatest heroes.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t still idolize others, some of whom are sports figures, but it’s now for what they do in their communities and in helping others. And I think that happens for a lot of us – we grow up and our views on the world, on what/who is important, changes. Our parents and their sacrifices to give us a better life. The first responders who put their lives on the line each day. The men and women of our armed forces who defend the liberties and freedoms which many of us take for granted. Doctors, teachers, volunteers who devote their time to ensuring that we are healthy, educated, and have the basic needs of life.

What sparked this post has nothing to do with my heroes, although I do respect the individuals it was based off of. What sparked it, and the reason for the title, was a picture I had posted on social media of my son in front of the Yellow Jerseys from the Tour de France that hang on a wall in Hincapie Sportswear’s headquarters, and a comment by a random individual.

 

As you can see, an innocent picture of an innocent kid. Even my caption has nothing to do with what the “troll” decided to comment on.

“#minime says he wants a #yellowjersey hanging on his wall some day! Thanks for everything @hincapiesports! He can’t wait to wear the H with pride! #ridehincapie #hincapiefamily”

His comment:

“Omg!! So many things wrong with this picture your hero’s should not be sportsmen/women especially those who cheated there way to the top, there no role models, 😦 :(“

If we get passed their lack of punctuation, the lack of understanding of when to use  there/they’re/their, or that the comment was off topic and unsolicited, we may be able to have a discussion about their ideas on heroes and parenting. But since I never said any of the winners of the coveted Yellow Jersey were my son’s heroes (because he wasn’t even born yet when any of these were won) their comment is simply that of someone trolling to make themselves seem righteous among the flawed. But the comment made me think about our ideas of heroes/villains. It brought me to this thought:

We are so quick to idolize an individual but we are even quicker to condemn them.

The rise and fall of the winner of seven of those Yellow Jerseys, Lance Armstrong, is the perfect example of this. He became the American golden boy on a bike by becoming the first American to win the Tour de France since Greg Lemond. But not only did he win, he did it after surviving testicular cancer. If that doesn’t put someone in Herculean status I don’t know what does. He went on to win seven Tour de France, more than any other cyclist in history. But then there was the black cloud of PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs).

There were suspicions throughout his years as champion that Lance and his teammates were using PEDs which was, and still is, against the rules of cycling. Eventually, enough evidence was amassed, and enough people came forward that Lance was stripped of his victories and he was banned from cycling – a sport that grew immensely during his time. Throw on top of that, Lance became a pariah not only in the cycling community but in everyday society. He was asked to step down from his position with the Livestrong Foundation (remember all those yellow bracelets?), the foundation he built that raised millions for cancer research. He was essentially told, “we don’t care about all that you have done for our organizations, Sir, you must go.” And maybe that was fair for the way that Lance treated people and all the lies he told but it is unfair to forget all the good because of a few mistakes. But that is our society – today’s gold is tomorrow’s trash.

My thoughts on whether or not Lance should have been punished so severely is a topic for another day. Today I want to focus on two things from this example of idolization/condemnation and the troll’s comment.

  1. Why is it that we are so quick to put an individual on a pedestal but then even quicker to knock that pedestal out from under them, happy to watch them fall?
  2. Isn’t it our responsibility as parents to give our children the facts about the individuals who they idolize and look up to?

We love our heroes but when they fall we act like they stole our first born. There are some cases where the swing from love to loathing is justified, but for many their indiscretions didn’t effect 99% of the people that came after them carrying torches and pitchforks. And that is my main problem with the mob mentality of the Lance Armstrong detractors. Yes he lied and so often attacked those who were against him, but did his cheating and lies really hurt many of us, or effect our lives in any way? If it did, then hate him all you want. But if you are claiming that Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, etc. taking PEDs effected your life and you weren’t involved in the sport in any way other than a fan, all I have to say is you need to reevaluate your priorities in life because in the end it’s just a game.

Now, I’m not saying I condone their cheating and the lies that followed, I’m simply saying you can still respect men like Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie for all the good they have done. Lance gave hope to so many individuals battling cancer. He made time to listen to those who wanted to share their story with him, to tell him what an inspiration his story was, to tell him that it pulled them out of the dark times and encouraged them to keep fighting. Whether it was all a farce or not, those individuals benefited from his story. They didn’t give up on life because of his story. And like I said, his story generated millions for cancer research and awareness. George has helped build a successful, family run business that gives back to the community in a number of ways.

So, why shouldn’t they still be considered heroes? If we go by Maya Angelou’s quote above, their lives have been filled with the intent of making this a better place for all people.

And that brings me to the final point, that it is our responsibility as parents to tell our kids the good, the bad, and the ugly of those they admire and then let them formulate their own opinion as they mature. The troll is only focused on the ugly. They didn’t take into account that MY SON IS 5! They don’t know that when he grows up he wants to be a firefighter, veterinarian, pro cyclist, and construction worker. He’s five, so I’m going to let him be five. We can’t change the fact that we idolize individuals who do things we only dream of, but we can take comfort that for most of us, as we grow older and mature, we realize that so many people around us in our everyday life do heroic things, inspire us, and effect our lives for the better.

Be Good. Do Good.

 

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