As a child I had baseball idols, but now all I have is skepticism.
Watching “Slammin’ Sammy Sosa” belt the ball onto Waveland Avenue from an outdated television in the basement of my parents’ house or listening to the radio broadcast at the community pool that summer, he could do no wrong.
I imitated his seemingly patented hop as he started his stroll around the bases in the confines of my Chicago area basement. After 66 total home-runs in the 1998 season, I became quite talented in the rendition.
The home-run race of 1998 between Sosa and fellow slugger Mark McGuire was quite similar to the arms race of the Cold War. It was good versus evil, and in the end both would lose.
Sammy was my childhood hero; he was the man who came from nothing, the ball player whose first glove was constructed out of a used milk carton and whose smile and jovial nature lit up press conferences across the country.
But the same boyish charm was not present during his congressional meeting after allegations of steroid use, compounded with the corked bat incident to make the situation worse.
Yet, I was still a believer. I was in a sense of denial concerning the allegations. It was Sosa who was viewed by many—including myself—as the next Roberto Clemente, the savior of the Dominican Republic and the savior of the Cubs.
As time lapsed and I entered my high school years, reality sunk in. Sammy was guilty of his crimes through my eyes, and I thought I would never look at sports athletes quite in the same light again.
Then came the curious case of Oscar Pistorius. A name if previously unknown before must certainly be known now after the recent murder allegations.
The South African dual-amputee sprinter known as “The Blade Runner” became the darling of international sport after his performance at the last Olympic Games.
Before Pistorius had his first birthday, both of his legs were amputated below the knee due to a bone defect. Most people would be ridden to a life in a wheelchair, but Pistorius managed otherwise.
I thought his story was made for Hollywood, and the dedication to his craft must have been far beyond the competition to compete in the manner that he did during those couple of weeks in London.
The 26-year-old became the symbol of unity for a country that was riddled from an apartheid-style government that crippled South Africa for nearly 50 years. Billboards across Johannesburg and throughout Nike advertisements dawned his likeness as the “bullet in the chamber”.
He had everything: Fame, a stunning beauty under his wing and the endorsement deals to spoil such a lady. After allegedly killing his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, the question of motive remains.
As Pistorius sits in jail awaiting a potential 25-year sentence, columnists around the world are characterizing one more sports darling to add to the growing list of those who fall from grace.
We tend to glorify those who excel in sport rather than individuals in education or other low profile professions. This event will not change our vantage point, and nothing truly will. It is our nature as human beings to hoist those who triumph over the human spirit to levels that no human being should reach.
I ask students and myself to regain a sense of perspective in the world of sports. Athletes can do any multiple of things that we cannot achieve physically, yet these exploits do not summate the quality of the individual.