This has certainly been an interesting week to watch how our society treats its heroes.
The week started with the Super Bowl, of course. And, every Super Bowl has a story, and the one the media decided to focus on was the story of Ray Lewis. Lewis, who is an amazing athlete, was playing in the last game of a great career, and CBS Sports milked it for all it was worth.
Of course, Lewis has a slightly different past, as well. In 2000, Ray Lewis was part of an incident at an Atlanta night club in which two young men ended up dead. Lewis’ friends were charged, but never convicted of the murders, and Ray Lewis has been silent about what actually happened.
When asked about it, he had the chutzpah to instruct the families of the victims that God don’t use people who commit murder for His glory.
Ray Lewis: Hero.
Then early this week news breaks that Colorado’s own Todd Helton was arrested close to his home for driving under the influence. Helton, who has been a mainstay in the Denver sports scene for 15 years, is by all accounts a good guy. If his skills have diminished on the baseball field, that comes with age; but his value to the team is such that, even so, the Rockies have insisted on having him in the clubhouse. On top of that, his work in the community and his comportment off the field have, heretofore, made him a genuine role model.
I’ll be very curious to watch how the Denver media treat Helton going forward. There do seem to be interesting cultural double standards at play, and right now, a good guy caught doing something wrong has a lot more to lose than somebody of questionable character. Don’t get me wrong — DUI is serious, and I don’t treat it lightly at all.
But for some reason we seem to be a lot harder on the good guys these days than on the thugs. I can only imagine what the victims of that incident in Atlanta were thinking this weekend as they watched the Ray Lewis love-fest. The world has forgiven him — will we be so easy on Todd Helton?
It’s been said that the only thing this 24/7 media culture loves more than building up heroes is watching them fall down. Maybe we do that because then we don’t have to live up to high standards any more. If our heroes can be complicit in murder, or the girls of Jersey Shore, or no-talent drug-addled celebrities, then why in the world should we expect great and noble things of ourselves?
All in all, I’d rather the press devoted as much time to the story of a genuine hero. Take, for your consideration, the case of Chris Kyle: Navy SEAL, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, husband and father, philanthropist, who was killed while trying to help out a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. Give that story 48 hours of non-stop television coverage, then maybe we would all have to start aiming for great and noble again.
Michael Alcorn is a music teacher and fitness instructor who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. He graduated from Alameda High School and the University of Colorado-Boulder.