Monday, February 18, 2008

Roger Clemens and the Death of Hero Worship

Newsday ran a nice thinkpiece by John Jeansonne on Saturday about the changing status of the privileged athlete in modern soceity:

Furthermore, "we're able," Starn said, "to distinguish between admiring and wondering at athletes' capacity to amaze us without assuming that that necessarily makes them wonderful people. There's nothing intrinsically save-the-worldish about what they do. When they hit a ball a long way, it doesn't make them into Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela."

. . . It is the sort of clear-eyed judgment that F. Scott Fitzgerald expressed in "The Great Gatsby" when he wrote that Daisy Buchanan's phenomenally wealthy husband, Tom, "among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven ... one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax."

And yes, I would think it's a nice piece even if I wasn't quoted in it. Come to think of it, it probably would have been a better piece.


Anonymous said...

He got an icepick, that made his ears burn.

Voros McCracken said...

Of course Gandhi, King and Mandela were all hardly squeaky clean themselves.

The real lesson is our tendency to try and make gods out of mortals to begin with.

Shyster said...

anon: Stranglers! Cool!

Voros: You got that right. I only have one hero, and that's Batman. And he's not real (as far as you know).

The idea that true heroes exist actually diminishes the accomplishments of men. We're all flawed, many of us tragically so, and when one of us rises above that to do something heroic, it's all the more inspiring.

I guess in this way I think of heroism like I think of a two-out double with a man on first. Even if there are no such things as clutch hitters, there sure as hell are clutch hits.

Voros McCracken said...

Yeah that 'anon' was me. My brain is filled with punk rock lyrics (though I'm not sure the Stranglers qualify).

I think there are plenty of heroes in our society, but they are human. Gods aren't heroic, IMO. When you're perfect and immortal, greatness is easy. When you can momentarily rise above your own worst instincts and make a contribution, why should the rest of your life have to be perfect?