You've got to be kidding me!
That was my first reaction to the news that celebrated Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius had shot his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, dead in their home in South Africa. Pistorius is the famous Blade Runner, the sprinter who runs with a pair of curved carbon legs, and fought his way through the qualifiers, and the courts, to be the first double-amputee runner in the Olympics. He's a hero to many South Africans, and to many disabled people. I gasped while watching him run in the 4x400-meter relay. I believe his team came in last, but I was all smiles. The world felt changed from when the starting pistol had sounded.
Hero worship is a losing proposition. The house wins out eventually. In other words, what goes up must come down.
None of us are perfect. We are all human. When Michael Jackson was around, I used to wish aloud that he would lock himself in a recording studio at some undisclosed location, away from his hangers-on and other dramas and distractions, so he could churn out album after album after album, because therein lay his brilliance. How much music did we lose from his untimely death, or from Amy Winehouse's? How many fabulous books by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Nelson Algren, were lost to alcohol?
But you can't do that. These were human beings, they were more than only work. If they were computers, they could work 24-7, producing nonstop. But they're not.
Oscar Pistorius is not. Lance Armstrong is not. I am not, which is why I'm going to stop here.
Oscar and Armstrong are both entitled to their days in court. I won't be paying much attention to either, though. I can't afford to. Time is tight when you've got a progressive illness. So is hope, and it must be safeguarded and preserved.
Lesson learned. What heroes I keep will be close to home, small-scale but genuine. Regular people whom I know are pushing their boundaries, daring to shine. Those who suffer setbacks and pick themselves up again, dust themselves off and put their shoulders back to the wheel. One friend battling addiction and a horrendous job market into the foreseeable future, showing the strength to keep on the straight and narrow, day after day, for as long as it takes. Another who in midlife has become a reverend and is sparking forth like a star. Those people who journey to Chicago for Skydiving for MS and go up in the airplane with trepidation and touch down again beaming with elation and pride.
This reminds me to remove Mr. Armstrong from my book, which is fortunate because the paperback edition is running a little bit long and I faced a hard decision on where to cut. My hero!