Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hero To Zero: A Familiar Story

How do we pick our heroes, and how do we allow our children to pick their heroes?

Notwithstanding the spate of recent cabinet position embarrassments suffered by the new Obama administration, we have once again witnessed that human heroes do one thing exceedingly well: fall.
I'm not talking about Richardson or Geithner or Dashle or Killifer (hmm, that list is starting to grow faster than the evidence that global warming is a colossal myth-- but I digress). No, in this case I'm talking about the phishy phenom, and pot head: Michael Phelps. Now, I cheered this guy during the Olympics and as he won medal after medal. He seemed gangling and awkward; and like most young people today he slurred his words into an imperceptible static when he talked. But he seemed nice and his mom and family (sans dad, from whom he is estranged) cheered him on with us. It was nice gig for us and for NBC. I'm sure a million kid's rooms are now adorned with his posters.

However, Phelps was arrested for drunk driving in 2004 in an "isolated incident" and of course this past month was caught at a frat house party using a bong; a "regrettable" incident in which he showed "bad judgement." The local DA is investigating what charges can and will be leveled.

This post isn't really about Phelps; it's about us. It's in our nature of course to fall, we all do it. We can't help but fall. But the risk that we take when we begin hero-worshipping is pretty great, and if we indulge our children's interest in "teen idols" and other celebrities, so much the worse when it happens.

What are we to do? Saints? Popes (well, most of them)? Inordinate and blind fawning over anyone is dangerous. I suppose this is just an observation and cautionary note: watch whom your kids are watching, listen to about whom they are talking or are imitating, and get ready to explain to them that sometimes they're going to be let down.

There are a lot of true heroes out there, but I daresay most are not sports superstars, singers, actors, politicians, or of any other celebrity stripe.

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