Now that the tragedy of Sept. 11 has receded into history just a bit, I think it's time to take a look at a few of what were once just silly terms but now have no place in our lives. I speak, mostly, of the juvenile terms applied in sports but they're not limited to just there.
First, let's look at already stupid term "sports hero". After hearing about the hundreds of firemen and police and all the others who lost their lives while in the act of attempting to save lives and to aid the injured, can there ever again be a time when we so sully the word "hero" by using it for someone who is just playing a child's game for far too much money?
I would accept the substitution of "sports idol", as long as it's used in the Biblical sense as in the idea of worshipping idols is a failing of the spirit., particularly when that worship is for someone with such a simple talent. I would accept the terms "sports star" or "personality" or "celebrity" or any term that places the meaning far below the exalted definition that those who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center or gave so much of themselves in the aftermath.
The worn cliché about football being "War Between the Goal Posts" belittles the Hell that is war. What occurs between the goal posts is just some guys pushing and grabbing and throwing a ball and trying to catch that ball. No one is flying a jet into their midst nor are there snipers in the crowd (although, come to think of it, that might prove an interesting addition to the game). There is no artillery fire raining down upon them nor are they expected to spend long nights in silence and fear, waiting to ambush and kill other human beings.
Football is not war or anything like it. The people that play the game aren't heroes nor are they soldiers. They are just guys playing around and sometimes getting hurt. There are no Purple Hearts for those injuries. Instead, they get their millions of dollars and go home to their expensive homes in their expensive cars.
Real soldiers go back to their rat infested bunkers to eat tasteless food out of cans that were sealed thirty or forty years before. They sleep on the ground or on hard, ancient cots. They wonder if they or their friends will be alive the next night. They remember the many who are no longer there with them. These are warriors and heroes, not football or basketball or baseball or any other person whose job description includes the word "player".
Something that many probably do not know about these "players" is that both baseball and football players didn't want to play just after the attack because their "minds wouldn't be in it and they would get injured." Is it possible to admire those people any less now?
Many business efforts have adopted visions of war and bravery into its lexicons. "Falling on my own sword" when what we mean is to take responsibility for our actions. "Take no prisoners" which is rather meaningless but used often to mean that all efforts are to be expended to complete the required task. The list is long but unimportant.
Gentle readers, it's time that we put sports and the average people who play these games, as well as the those whose aim is simply making piles of money, into the proper perspective. The world was honored by the brave acts and near superhuman strength of the men and women who gave up their lives or stood bravely in the face of such horror and began the grueling task of removing the debris as quickly as possible in hopes of finding even one more soul alive beneath the rubble. Michael Jordan wasn't out there. Shaquille O'Neal was not to be seen. The President of IBM and the CEO of Westinghouse were not out there moving stones and dirt hour after hour.
The honest to God heroes that appeared were the same people that you and I sit beside at the local fast food place or stand in line with to see a movie. These absolutely amazing human beings stood strong and tall and just did what had to be accomplished at a time that it had to be done quickly and without fear or hesitation. Once the rubble has been hauled away, the cameras move on to the next act of violence or, frankly, back to the arena for more children's games, these amazing Heroes (it needs to be capitalized) will quickly blend back into the masses of humanity that is America. We will probably never know their names nor will they stand in the spotlight before the world. Theirs is a bravery beyond measure and beyond even our ability to thank them. That bravery must never be diluted by the silly and childish misuse of such powerful and descriptive words.
For whatever it's worth and in the small possibility that any of these heroes will ever read these words, I offer my thanks and my great respect for your deeds. You have become the most sterling example of what is truly worthwhile and decent in the human race. May your lives be long but the memories of the horrors of these days short. America thanks you.
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