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Just a Guy Who Misses His Heroes

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Bruce Sallan: When I grew up, it was easy to know the good guys from the bad guys. In some cases, they actually wore white hats. Or, as in my first exposure to a movie hero that I remember, it was Steve McQueen as Hilts, the motorcycle-riding, Nazi-defying loner who comes through, in the end, for the guys in "The Great Escape." He was the epitome of cool. I thought policemen were also cool, and that politicians looked like JFK and were to be respected. Nostalgic times, for sure.

koufax-sandy.jpg

But, it changed. Changed with the sixties, changed with Watergate, changed with Vietnam, and more. The legacy of those years is what our children now live with. Who are their heroes? Do we really want them worshipping all the NBA superstars who are covered with tattoos and whose personal lives are best left to the tabloids? My sports heroes were like Sandy Koufax, who stood by his principles and didn't pitch a World Series game on a religious holiday of significance to him.

Even teachers and other authority figures not only engendered respect, but also were often feared, in some cases, for their importance in the community and the gravitas of who they were and what they represented. Now, high school kids regularly dis teachers, and the system is such that the teachers and schools are actually afraid of the students much of the time.

I always think that life is a balance, and maybe the naïveté that I grew up with was too innocent, while the looseness and freedoms of today are too open, naked, and in our (kids') faces. But, I'm just a guy, so what do I know.


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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Denise August 1, 2009, 5:08 PM

Who is Sandy Koufax?

David August 1, 2009, 5:27 PM

I really like what Bruce has written here. I gather from Bruce’s bio, comments he has made in other blog entries and some of what he mentions here, that he and I are of essentially the same vintage and provenance. (I grew up in So. California, which I presume Bruce did, or else Sandy Koufax, “The Man” on the L. A. Dodgers pitching staff in the 1960s and hero to thousands of L.A.-area boys in his day, probably wouldn’t be mentioned in that vein!) The relationship between youth and “hero” is complicated today, for sure. I am a college professor. When I ask my students, as I sometimes have occasion to do, “Who are your heroes?” they most often give the name of an athlete or rock musician. An athlete they name will usually be someone who is simply an outstanding athlete, as opposed to Sandy K., who was that AS WELL AS, during and after his sports career, a model citizen in just about every respect. (Sports Illustrated named him Athlete of the 20th Century NOT simply because he was, it may be argued, the greatest pitcher ever, but because he was that AND a “class act” in his service to community, sports, the media, friends, colleagues and family.) A rock musician my students name will usually be someone who is charismatic, successful in show biz, and artistically talented … and that’s it. One student told me a few years ago, “My hero is Jessica Simpson, because she is gorgeous, and she is so real.” JESSICA SIMPSON??? Are you kidding me? She is famous for formerly thinking that “Chicken of the Sea” was chicken. I’m sorry, that excludes her from hero territory, at least for a few decades, in order for her to do things other than “look gorgous and be ‘real’” that COULD be heroic. I mean, when you talk about “heroes” in rock: Love Bono or hate Bono for his work in Africa, you have to give the guy credit for leveraging his celebrity as a top rocker to do what he hopes will be something valuable for the world. If a student told me, “My hero is Bono because not only does he work hard to make great music, he also does good work for the less-than-privileged,” I certainly could buy that. ON THE OTHER HAND … and this of special interest to visitors to a parents’ site … many of my students DO answer my hero question with “My mom,” “My dad” or “My parents.” The reasons are usually along the lines of “He/She/They sacrificed x, y and z in order to make a good life for the family.” That IS hero material. (It’s why my late dad is my hero, PLUS he was incontrovertibly honest and ethically unimpeachable. Something to live up to — and, unfortunately, fall short of too often.) So perhaps more youngsters than we may imagine — or fear — DO “get” what a hero can be, and dO recognize heroic behavior even if it occurs below the radar of celebrity.

David August 1, 2009, 5:42 PM

Sorry, my comment apparently exceeded the maximum length — well, I “got into” this topic, so sue me! Here is the last couple of sentences that didn’t make it into my comment:

ON THE OTHER HAND … and this of special interest to visitors to a parents’ site … many of my students DO answer my hero question with “My mom,” “My dad” or “My parents.” The reasons are usually along the lines of “She/he/they sacrificed x, y and z in order to make a good life for the family.” That IS hero material. So perhaps more youngsters than we may imagine — or fear — DO “get” what a hero can be, and can recognize and study heroic behavior even if it occurs below the radar of celebrity.

Suze August 1, 2009, 11:04 PM

David took the words out of my mouth, literally! Parents must be their kids heroes! Couldn’t agree more. Very well said!

Jeff August 6, 2009, 12:11 PM

Boy, Bruce, you are striking (sorry for the pun) such a chord with me. My heroes were genuine heroes. I’m glad for Tiger Woods and others like him, but too many of the celebs and others in the limelight are just embarrassing, let alone inspirations for our kids.

Gracie August 6, 2009, 9:13 PM

I understand and applaud the essence of Bruce’s message. I can’t say that I relate to the details of it … I am not a baseball fan … I don’t like movies like The Great Escape … and although I think Steve McQueen is cute, I wouldn’t say he is a hero to me. I do have many heroes — heroines, more accurately! One of my heroines is Dorothy Day. Look her up in Wikipedia. Another heroine of mine is Sarah Barton. Again, look her up. These generous and great-spirited women are not introduced to young women today, which is why if you’re mom isn’t your heroine, you’ll have nowhere to go but Jessica Simpson … ick!

Never August 7, 2009, 12:42 AM

Bruce,

This is interesting and all but get back to the blog style that we have come to know and love from you… stories from your life. These are much more informative and enjoyable to read.

Linda Sherman August 7, 2009, 7:58 PM

I agree with you Bruce. It is very refreshing but unfortunately unusual, when a young celebrity shows by their words and actions that they have high principals and standards.

In my world of social media marketing, my heroes have large followings while maintaining authenticity. Having integrity and being responsible is important no matter what our level of fame.


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