Where are all our heroes?

Jackie Robinson, a true heroe from yesteryears

Jackie Robinson, a true hero from yesteryear

When I asked my freshman English class students who they admired most, they said themselves. This should come as no surprise from the Millennial Generation but still, folks my age wonder. When pressed isn’t there anyone they look up to? My students confessed, “No we don’t have heroes.”

Is it no wonder? Sports icons fall short. The most reputable coach in football, the late Papa Joe Patterno fell off his pedestal when he covered up pedophilia at Penn State, tarnishing his record.

Lance Armstrong was stripped of 7 Tour de France medals for performance enhancing drug usage. Apparently, he did not defy odds as a human miracle beating cancer then rising to top of his game again.

Tiger Woods, following in the footsteps of political icons like Bill Clinton, French DSK, Italian Berlusconi, cheated on his wife, and then lied about it under oath. Classy.

American athletes are not the only ones disappointing the public. Around the globe, similar headlines make the front page. In a traditionally clean sport, French handball stars were charged with game fixing. Every time a European soccer idol breaks a record, another one makes the headlines for spouse abuse, drugs, or gambling. South African hero, Paralympics’ poster child, Oscar Pistorius was accused of murdering his girlfriend model, Reeva Steenkamp.

Politicians? Un huh, the very nature of the job makes their integrity questionable.

Surprisingly, you don’t hear about women cheating in relationships, business deals, or sports. You still just don’t hear much about women. Period. Especially athletic women. Title IX did not stipulate equal media coverage, which is still lacking, only 8% of media coverage is about women. Are athletic women yet to capture media eye? Or maybe women are less likely to make the same poor decisions?

Unfortunately, the media does find female athletes newsworthy when scandal arrives. Former WNBA star, Chamique Holdsclaw, one of the best female basketball players of all time, was arrested in a domestic dispute. In a rags to riches tale, this ghetto girl made it big at Tennessee winning 3 consecutive titles. She was the first female athlete recruited to go professional while still in college because the opportunity was available. Now her life accomplishments will be tarnished by scandal after she assaulted her ex girlfriend Jennifer Lacy, Tulsa Shock player.

Bad press for the WNBA, which gets only limited print. The articles never mentioned Chamique’s underlying psychological issues – depression and attempted suicide in 2006 – revealed in her autobiography. For all her accolades on the hardwood, as a gay, black, inner-city female basketball player the cards were stacked against her. What I am wondering is why only scandal makes the headlines?

Like Suzi Favor Hamilton, the world class run runner from Wisconsin, a wife and mom, who doubled as a high flying call girl. She made “breaking news” which by the way, ran in Swiss newspapers with full-page photo layout, no less.

So who can we admire?

Famous people are under suspicion, as if fame itself corrupts or perhaps the money behind it. Maybe our children should ignore the big names, and instead emulate everyday role models.

A favorite educator, a respected coach, a kind neighbor. Little people tackle the mundane jobs of keeping kids on track without 6 digit salaries, 5 car garages, million dollar shoe endorsements, thousand dollar speaking appearances and Oprah interviews.

Hear! Hear! For the teachers, coaches, moms, dads, grandmas.

How about featuring one of those stars the headlines? What do you think?

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Posted in education, family, inspiration, relationships, social view, sport.


  1. Pat, it’s interesting. The first people who come to mind as my heroes are my parents, followed by a litany of everyday people who have touched my life. This is a great reminder that fame often leads to a downfall and everyday heroes are the best. I also am struck by your comments on how much press the negative vs positive events get, especially with women athletes, with no regard for the human factors influencing these events. That’s a sad commentary on our media and the power it has to influence us.Thanks, as always for a thought-provoking post.

    • I agree. My first heroes were my parents. We should all be so fortunate to have been raised in loving families with such good role models. Alas, not everyone is so lucky. Hopefully there are still members of the local schools and communities that kids can look up, too. The media does place too much emphasis on scandal, but then we, the public, power the media.

  2. Pat, you’re touching on a subject I think about a lot. I wrote a similar post a while back: “Will the true mentors please step forward?” While I’ve had some great writing mentors (pre-MFA days), I feel some of them had my back only while I was paying them money … after publication of my book – not so much … no acknowledgement and no book reviews; even when I reached out and asked, I was told by one that she was too busy. As for the MFA … promises of ongoing assistance, until you ask, and then they try and sell you onto the next course.

    • Interesting observation of your experience with “paid” mentors in MFA. Sadly, education, too, has become big business especially at the collegiate level. One would hope the that the professors would continue to lifelong mentors.

  3. Sad but true. Who are the heroes now? I think the millenials — and the rest of us — are jaded by so much scandal. Athletes, politicians, clergy … hard to find a public figure who hasn’t been tarnished in some way.

    • Yes, Helene, I guess kids need to look outside the public arena for role models. Unfortunately, the little do-gooder next door who does the right thing never just makes the front page news.

  4. Perhaps the kids are onto something by not buying into the hero mentality, Pat. I remember looking up to my parents, certain teachers, etc. Sadly, money and prestige seem to have corrupted entertainers, sports stars, politicians, and too many in the public eye. It must be disheartening for kids to look up to somebody, only to have that somebody topple off the peak. Well said, Pat!

  5. I agree Pat and yet, it’s the scandal and salicious behaviors of good folks gone bad that make headlines these day , not good honest folks, like our parents who worked hard, helped their neighbors and stlll believed in making the world a better place…. the most under regarded and unrecognized of Heroes. A very authentci few are still out there. We have many Sheroes, but, I doubt they’ll EVER make headlines! Sadly, it’s how the world seems to be is evolving .

    • Oh yes, there are lots Sheroes out there, so let’s show their stories instead. We were blessed to have been brought up by good, honest folk who had strong morals.

  6. ……….the crime (murder) rate in South Africa is so high that a leading ‘gun magazine’ recently commented on the international negative publicity, (similar to the negative subjective comments on your blog), on a tragic shooting accident in which one of South Africa’s/world para athletes were involved. The magazine said as an ‘expert opinion’, that the crime rate in S.Africa is such, that if someone is in your house, ‘shoot, before you get shot!’
    The S African crime statistics are littered with ‘mistaken identity murders’, committed in family units – it is what the situation is now, in S Africa.
    Ask yourself, why is there thousands of new South African immigrants in Europe, Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, South America, to mention a view?
    We all know who I am talking about – if I use his name, the social media, the ‘popular social communication tool’, created by our self to suit ‘our moral fiber’ will splash it out around the world within a view hours with some negative connotation heading!!
    OP is a remarkable man, worthy of the highest praise.
    Take time and please study the discrimination against whites in South Africa, specifically farmers of which 83,000 were murdered in South Africa since the new ‘democratic’ government came to power in 1995. A list of those murdered is available (murder dates, names, ID, address etc) on the internet – where are the noble ‘human right’ advocates now?
    Lets look ‘closer to home’, where does the ‘standards, your moral fibre’ came from which we use to ‘judge!?’
    Are you really such an exemplary individual?
    The South African Constitution is hailed as of the best in the world, it states, ‘an accused is innocent, until proven guilty’.
    Does the

  7. Startling to find that they have no heroes, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Sometimes, a group I’m in does interviews with people and asks who has had the greatest impact on their lives. Almost without exception, it’s the heroes you suggest: parents, sometimes grandparents.

  8. Startling to find that they have no heroes, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Sometimes, a group I’m in does interviews with people and asks who has had the greatest impact on their lives. Almost without exception, it’s the heroes you suggest: parents, sometimes grandparents.

  9. I remember ten years ago thinking that Oprah was my hero, but not so much anymore. I think Jane Goodall and Chriatiane Amanpour are the type of women I believe are my heroes. I’ve never thought of sports figures as my heroes, perhaps because I’m not fixated on any particular sport. I did enjoy high diving, but you don’t get much chice of sports on US TV, except football, baseball, basketball and golf. I don’t have extra cable channels, but I think the French show more of a variety in sports than we see here.

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