Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Heroes

Lately I have been feeling old...like something of a dinosaur, really.

Growing up, I remember coaches and fathers alike used to point to Pete Rose, a player with limited ability and unlimited hustle, as someone to emulate. "Look at the way Charlie Hustle plays the game - that's what hard work and determination will get you." Now he's a punchline...a sad joke at which no one laughs.

We used to play youth sports in order to learn the value of sportsmanship, teamwork, and hard work.

Now I hear sportscasters at the nation's single largest sports media outlet proclaim a cheater the best hitter ever in the wake of the home-run record being broken. Who cares if mounds are lower, and stadiums are smaller then when Hank Aaron did it. Who cares if the man who did it utilized drugs banned by federal law in order to allow his muscles to recover faster, in order to allow his strength to grow, who cares that he took a huge short cut.

Is it something that starts from the top? We have a president who lost the popular vote...twice, and pardoned a crony that compromised national security by outing a CIA agent.

Does it start with fraternity? We have a baseball player's union, possibly the most powerful union in the nation, which did everything it could to preserve the steroid era of baseball until bullied by Congress into adopting a testing policy.

Maybe it's just me.

I have always had a soft spot for the guy that goes undrafted, or is called too small - Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, David Patten - none of those guys were supposed to make it. Bru was too small for linebacker, Brown was drafted in a round that no longer exists, and Patten was undrafted and a cast-off.

It is, I realize, the Underdog Syndrome - I liked watching Greg Harris pitch, I am a fan of Dustin Pedroia. My favorite Sox player of all-time isn't Yaz, or Rice, or even Fisk - all of whom I enjoyed watching - no, mine was always Evans. The guy who played the position that the worst were relegated to in little league. I looked up to him because that is where I first played in little league.

I liked the scrappers like Wally Backman, Trot Nixon, Tim Goad. I liked the guys that got their jerseys dirty and wore it like a badge of honor.

Lately honor has seemed like an empty word in sports.

Franchise faces like Drew Bledsoe and Mike Minter, guys who literally bled for their teams and dragged their teammates out of the dregs of one win seasons are walking away. We are left with things like the Tour de France and the legion of riders expelled this year for doping. We are left with the ongoing saga of an Emperor and his new clothes in baseball, and all the pundits that are telling him how beautiful his new outfit looks. We are left with a criminal minority taking the thunder away from the rest of the NFL with shootings, assaults, and dogfighting (and lord only knows how pervasive that really is).

It all makes me feel a little old, a little out of date, and a lot disappointed with where this has all gone.

Fortunately, for as bad as it seems, there are things that come up like the IronMan Triathlon, and the stories of the amateurs that run in it. Thankfully there are still some athletes out there who can still be heroes.

4 comments:

soxfaninny said...

very poignant...and true

Kevin Smith said...

thanks

Teresa said...

Nice Post.

Get yourself a copy of "Never Give Up." It's Tedy's autobiography that my company published just this year and even as a Colts fan I can't help but be inspired by his story, his play and his attitude.

Kevin Smith said...

Thanks for the kudos. I will look for the book.