Monday, June 18, 2007


We love heroes.

And we want them to be perfect.

And when they are not, we punish them.

Then we write a country song about it.

Fr. Damien, a priest for whom I have a lot of respect, wrote a laudable article in Priest Magazine about our need for heroes and the dearth of persons able to fill the role. When interviewing the seminarians whom he teaches about who they see as heroes in their lives, save for Pope John Paul II they named average Joes, Mr. Jones down the street or Mrs. McDurvish a secondary school teacher, who do the grunt work of heroes these days. All of our national heroes have become tarnished. It is hard to think of anybody whose name on a bumper sticker you could commit to your car and be proud.

Not even superheroes are exempt. The twenty-first century finds our squeaky clean men of steal and virtue having their dark sides developed. Their biggest foes no longer seem to be outside but inside themselves. They have become not the best side of ourselves, but reflections of ourselves. Who doesn’t want Batman to stop whining and moping around and go talk to his therapist? Or maybe go to confession.

In Cleveland at the moment we are a little over excited about LeBron James. LeBron “King” James, who grew up in Akron just south of here, attended St. Vincent St. Mary Catholic High School, went on to help lead the Cleveland Cavs to the play offs this past week. This is a good thing. As much as I like Cleveland we are like the lonely girl at the dance watching everyone else in their new clothes dance and have fun. So we have come to love ANTHING that makes us feel good about ourselves and he helped do just that. So he constantly appears on the front page of the PD, giant billboards go up bearing his image, and people shell out as much money as I paid for my first suit for a jersey with his number on it.

The latest cooing has been over the name of his second son Bryce. It was debated in the PD (my, how the mighty of fallen) weather this was a good name, how cute he looked, and would he have his Dad’s talent.

I find it all rather sad. I don’t think we would have made such a hero out of him anytime before thirty years ago. He is not married to his children’s mother. That would have been looked upon with a certain amount of shame. But we are so desperate for heroes we start making exceptions for their behavior (which sadly turns into exceptions for all of us).

I should be more like what I used to believe the Oscars were about. When I was small I thought there was a golden rule by which movies were judged and when held against this superior model, truly the best movie of the year was held up for special recognition. I have since come to believe otherwise. However, I still believe that there is a golden rule by which heroes should be judged. And if there is no one to fill the role we cannot accept second best. This year there just will be no golden statue given to anybody.

Lebron is fantastic at placing a round ball through a round hoop. He has a good public persona. He is intelligent and charitable. By all accounts he has some good business acumen. And it is reported that he is good to his mother. But he is more willing to have a permanent tattoo injected into the skin of his body than by his word and oath dedicate his life to the mother of his children. What will that teach his sons about the meaning of marriage and family; about life? What does that teach them about the way men treat women? What does that teach them about the importance of focusing on what is best for your children? What does that teach them about what it is to be a man? As things stand now, he could walk out on them with his only tie to them being that he must pay this woman to raise his sons until they reach the age of 18. It seems to me that though he is great at so many things, he fails at the most important thing about being a man. Some hero.

Rather than accepting second best, perhaps we need to focus on backyard heroes and household saints lest those whom we make gods lead us astray.


lore c. said...

I agree with your opinion of LeBron James. "His longtime girlfriend" is not the same as "his wife for life". With his power in the media, he could easily send a very strong and meaningful message to the ones who worship him. Marrying the mother of his two boys would be the "heroic" thing to do.

Odysseus said...

I am a Pistons fan, so I have extra reason to hate Mr. James. :)

However, I take your point. I am reminded of the early middle Ages, when monks were allying themselves with rulers who, hopefully, had at least a modicum of virtue. I think we are back in that era in some way: forced to admire people who, according to our faith, have not lived virtuous lives, simply because they are the lesser of two evils.

Forced to choose between Dennis Rodman (or Ron Artest) and LeBron James, the latter wins. But you are right, how sad that we should have so little to choose from.

Of course, I am no shining example of Christianity either, and maybe this is all God's way of reminding us of our own burdens of sin, our own reasons to be humble, and thankful that He still continues to work in world full of people like me.

Anonymous said...

On ESPN today, a few different commentators criticized Angel Cabbrera, the US Open Champion, for setting a bad example by smoking on camera. I have not heard a single negative word on ESPN or any media outlet about LeBron having a child out of wedlock. Crazy stuff.

Anonymous said...

And Father, have you reviewed Champions of Faith:

Anonymous said...

I read your line: "But he is more willing to have a permanent tattoo injected into the skin of his body than by his word and oath dedicate his life to the mother of his children."
to my 23-year old (former bb star)daughter. She recognizes how marriage is not valued in our society and feels it is even less so for LeBron and those he is influenced by. But, we can hope he does have plans to marry and stay married to the mother of his boys...we will pray he does so (along with playing for the CAVS for his career :))

Fr. V said...

V. U. - Exactly - that is what I mean by backyard heroes and household saints. Doing the most important things to which you are called right. That IS heroic even if it doesn't land you a million dollar contract.

Rob - you rarely fail to say something to make me smile or think. "and maybe this is all God's way of reminding us of our own burdens of sin, our own reasons to be humble, and thankful that He still continues to work in world full of people like me." Yep.

P.J. - I suppose that's because smoking is now morally, politically incorrect. I'll give a gander at that site.

Eileen - Hope springs eternal - even in Cleveland.