Our real heroes are found outside the sports arena

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

This is my first column of 2013, and it would be easy to try to come up with a list of big sports stories from 2012. Or, perhaps, I could try to look ahead at what might make headlines in the coming year. I’m not going to do either.

Instead, I want to use this space to remind fans that as much as we idolize professional athletes of all sports, they are all human. They are subject to the same trials and temptations of everyday life that both you and I must battle. The only thing that separates most of us from most of them is their financial status. It’s unlikely you or I have the ability to be able to afford almost anything we see. That’s an issue for another column, though.

We, as fans, must learn to admire these athletes for their abilities to play the games we all grew up playing. It really shouldn’t go beyond that. We’d be wise to retreat from our willingness to put these men and women up on pedestals.

I’d like to encourage everyone to refrain from automatically granting these overpaid players hero status simply because they have ultra-defined athletic skills. They may possess an inordinate amount of athletic talent and be worthy of praise for that, but at the same time, that doesn’t equate to hero status.

The real heroes of our world are not found in stadiums, arenas, ice rinks or ball diamonds. You won’t find them wearing colorful logoed jerseys with numbers emblazoned on their backs. I encourage you to take a closer look around you to see the real heroes.

I contend that you’ll encounter them inside of school buildings, hospitals, mental health facilities, police and fire stations, barracks, ships at sea and military bases all around the world. These are the people who are truly making a difference in the lives of our neighbors and loved ones.

Granted, athletes are a source of entertainment and often provide a diversion from the mundane tasks that make up our everyday lives. That can be of some value, but they are hardly worthy of hero status.

The real hero status should be bestowed upon our service men and women, teachers, doctors, nurses, police and fire personnel. They are the ones shaping the minds of our children, caring for our sick and elderly, and perhaps even putting their lives on the line to save our lives or the lives of loved ones.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten our priorities out of whack. We pay athletes and entertainers millions of dollars, and at the same time expect armed service members, teachers, mental health professionals, fire and policemen (women) to exist on wages that are a fraction of what a minimum salaried professional athlete takes home.

And before I conclude this column, I’d also like to raise the status of responsible parents and grandparents who are providing food, shelter and clothing and caring for their children and grandchildren. They often get overlooked as well.

As we embark on a new year, enjoy sports, entertainment and recreation, but always keep in mind the real heroes in our society. Take the time to thank a teacher, service member, a police or fireman. Extend them a handshake and a smile of gratitude. It won’t fill up their bank account, but it might go a long way in making them feel appreciated. Happy New Year!

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the Jan. 2-8, 2013, issue

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