Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Misplaced hero worship gets smacked down

I was an average teenage American boy.

And like average teenage American boys of my time, I collected baseball cards. I also collected football cards, hockey cards and the occasional collectible cards associated with movies and TV shows. I’m not sure if they still make those, but I know they still make sports trading cards.

There is a huge industry related to the hero worship of athletes. Aside from the trading cards, there’s also shirts, hats, posters — you name it. We buy the sports stuff so we can feel like we’re “part of it.” The “it” of course, being something important.

The hero worship of athletes, alone, is a huge industry. Add in movie stars and television actors, and millions of Americans spend a large portion of their time and money trying to feel a “part of” something “important.”

Today is Election Day, of course, and that adds in another sector of the hero-worship industry: Politicians. Granted, I think it’s a much smaller scale, but I can confess to having a bumper sticker and pin collection from throughout the years. A few years ago, I was offered a pretty penny for a Ron Paul pin I was wearing at the time. I refused the offer, electing instead to keep my pin.

But what of society’s real heroes? Where is the industry to worship — or at least salute — them? Where are the trading cards for doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, and even teachers?

I was having a conversation with a friend on Sunday during the Bills game. We were discussing this oddity and imagining how strange it would be to see doctors wearing jerseys during live-to-air broadcasts of appendectomies or whatnot.

Imagine how surreal it would be if your kids were talking about the statistics of successful operations or graduating rates or arrests or — well, I think you get the picture.

I’d love to see a local hospital start this trend. I’d love to see someone go out on a limb to try to start this trend of appropriately placed hero worship. Or at least respect.

Sure, people directly affected by the successful operations show their respect. Yes, people silently appreciate criminals being arrested and kids learning their multiplication tables. But isn’t it bizarre how little importance is given to these things that actually matter.

Now, I’m not saying this to bash sports figures, actors or even politicians. I have a very healthy appreciation for the morale boost that can be given to a city by a big win by their football team. But in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter how few championships Buffalo has. And save for a few millionaires and those who lost bets this weekend, the Bills loss to the Jets this Sunday doesn’t truly affect many people in Western New York. And yet, we act like it does.

I am an average adult male. And like most average adult males of my time, I have a T-shirt with an NFL logo on it.

I’m guilty of misdirected hero worship. But I’m wondering why. Are you?