Stop the hero worship

By Doug Gorman

As sports editor of the Daily, I normally wouldn't see a reason for pop musician Michael Jackson's name to appear in the sports section of this newspaper.

But with his latest apparent brush with the law I can't help but wonder why we as a society tend to hero-worship celebrities, especially those who have earned bad reputations.

Without convicting the musical icon before a fair trial, it just seems to me that he has some real issues, yet legions of fans continue to follow him as though he is some sort of god-like figure.

Sports fans are just as guilty of hero worshipping their favorite personalities.

It isn't a bad thing for posters of athletes to adorn the walls of a young child's bedroom.

Growing up, posters covered my bedroom walls too. I can still see the posters of St. Louis Cardinals' quarterback Jim Hart and running back Terry Metcalf starring at me from one corner of my bedroom.

The problem comes when we don't move past being a star-struck adolenscent as we get older.

We also need to be careful about whom we choose to idolize, and whom we let our children idolize.

There are only a handful of people who know whether Kobe Bryant sexually assaulted that young women in his Colorado hotel room, but the Lakers' superstar violated his sacred oath of marriage when he committed adultery.

Yet many look past that act.

It is well documented that Braves' superstar Chipper Jones also had an affair with a waitress that produced a child. This indiscretion cost Jones a marriage yet Jones is still one of the most popular players in the eyes of young children.

Former baseball player Steve Howe was suspended time and again for drug violations, yet he kept getting chances. I realize drug addiction is a disease, but I wonder how many of us in the "real world," would have kept getting chances.

Darryl Strawberry has also had plenty of chances to overcome drug problems. I hope he is cured, but I don't understand the New York Yankees' recent decision to hire him as director of player development.

Strawberry doesn't need to be influencing the careers of young professional baseball players, many who are just out of high school.

When O.J. Simpson was arrested years ago and charged with murder, I was in a state of shock. Simpson was one of the athletes I admired as a child. I always pretended to be O.J. in those backyard football games.

Then a high school football coach in Carrollton brought me down to reality when he said. "I don't know if O.J. is guilty of murder, but he has admitted to putting his hands on his wife. Heroes don't do those sort of things."

I even have a problem with hero worshipping celebrities who haven't run afoul of the law.

Although Dale Earnhardt was one the best drivers on the Winston Cup circuit, since his death he has become larger than life.

Former NBA basketball player Charles Barkley once took some heat for saying pro athletes aren't heroes, but years after he made the statement, I tend to agree.

As much as I cheered for and sought autographs of my favorite athletes growing up, my heroes were the people that influenced my life daily, starting with my mom and dad, other relatives, coaches, teachers and religious leaders.

(Doug Gorman is the sports editor of the Daily. E-mail at dgorman @news-daily.com)