Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Do We Need Heroes

Just when they said it couldn't be done ... a happy and triumphant Cadel Evans and friend on his victory parade in Paris on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
Read more: Sydney Morning Herald

Viva Cadel . The Tour De France is over and Cadel Evans, the true blue Aussie has conquered all and become the first Australian to win the Tour De France and the oldest winner in 88 years to boot.

He is a Hero or is he? Well for the purist he probably isn't but for many in Australia he is. He embodies the qualities we desire, secretly wish we had or aspire. He has reached the pinnacle of his sport. He has triumphed in the face of the competition, the weather and the terrain. He reflects what it is to be a Sportsman and a Human Being. He is a clean skin in a sport that tragically has lost its moral compass at times - blinded by the pursuit of success at all cost.

Gone are the days of sports in the unadulterated pursuit of result and achievement but with integrity.Money has sullied the thrill of watching and participating for the glory and nothing else.

A hero in normal parlance means (Wikipedia):

A hero (heroine for females) (Ancient Greek: ἥρως, hḗrōs), in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion.[1] Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

Stories of heroism may serve as moral examples. In classical antiquity, hero cults that venerated deified heroes such as Heracles, Perseus, and Achilles played an important role in Ancient Greek religion. Politicians, ancient and modern, have employed hero worship for their own apotheosis (i.e., cult of personality).

It takes many forms and is probably overused. Following Cadel's win there was both the cry of joy and championing of our hero Cadel. Even a call for a public holiday to honour his success. There were the, I presume largely non sporting commentators and public who just wondered what the fuss was about. He just won a cycle race. On talkback radio on ABC in Perth there were even callers who rang to voice their disagreement about the use of the term 'Hero'.As one caller pointed out, a hero was someone who saved a life, fought in a war or put his life on the line for someone else get the meaning. But winning a cycle race that ain't a Hero.

I don't plan to add to the dichotomy of views. Just mine. In my eyes I have people I admire and aspire to follow. Mahatma Gandhi , Nelson Mandela, my Father and many others for their moral fibre, their resilience and unfettering faith and belief in what is right. If only I had an ounce of the conviction and strength of great men in the ages gone, particularly in the complex world where all is not as it may seem. How would I act in a crisis? Will I be up to the challenge?

And I have my sporting heroes. They are a different breed with different qualities. My earliest memory a a young boy playing soccer in Singapore with the neighbours brings back memories of my favourite Club Manchester United. I think everyone supported them . They rose above the tragedy of losing an entire Soccer team . Sepp_Maier the German Goalkeeper was another hero. George Best for his skill but not his alcoholism. In more recent years I admire the triathletes such as Alexander Crowe, Chrissie Wellington, Macca and loads more. They are my heroes for the qualities in the sporting field. Their single minded strength to take the fight up to the competitor, their inner demons and the conditions.

I come from a sporting family and I learnt a lot from being on the sports field. I had good and fair coaches. who taught me to do the right thing, not to cut corners and to be fair yet hard. It was simple and morally easy on the field but it was my training ground. In 15 years of hockey I had never been sent off .

What has all this got to do with the title. Well, simply we do need heroes. It could be your dad or mom or the person next door, your child, the local policeman or woman. The kid who stood up to the bully. The man who went to the aid of an accident victim. But they  inspire us to be a better human being. To reach for what we thought may not have been attainable.To make the world a better place, to leave it just a little better for having us in it.

I still recall in my initial foray into the sport of Triathlon and how I was awe struck at the fact that some triathletes had completed an Ironman. My one wish at that moment was to try and complete an Ironman. My heroes were the guys I swam with and ran with and cycled with and they are still my heroes.They were not super human. They were everyday people doing extraordinary things. Would I have aspired to push myself without heroes. Maybe. But they made the journey easier by the markers they placed in forging a path for me. My heroes have been a compass for my aspirations and achievements. I believe it has made me the person I am.That I wish to be.