One of my friends posted on Facebook about a local "news" station calling Olympic athletes "heroes," over and over again. My friend questioned why this happens, stating "They are athletes not heroes. Heroes are our military, police, firefighters, etc. People who put their lives on the line for others. Be proud of the athletes but they certainly are not heroes!"
I thought about that for a while and came up with this post. Having managed my college radio station and newspaper, I've battled student government, being granted budgets of under $10,000 for each entity while the school football team received over $220,000 (and won a couple of games). Many of the newspaper and radio station personnel who benefited from the experience are now in related jobs. I don't think our school sent a single player to the NFL.
Here's my response to my friend's post:
We have skewed values in this nation. We gladly pay $2300 for a Superbowl seat and millions to a man who throws a football, yet are outraged when the people responsible for educating our children expect a living wage and modern buildings. We build $1 billion stadiums on the public dime, yet are near riot when a police officer expects to be paid for the job he or she does and for the sake of the public peace, don't even mention benefits.
We put athletes on cereal boxes while we complain about traffic delays from a funeral of police officers and fireman who died on the job. We are disgusted when we find out Olympians have to pay taxes on their medals, yet we shun our soldiers who return from battle with PTSD, lost limbs and injuries a lifetime won't heal.
A baseball player who makes millions is rewarded with bonuses and accolades for playing with a broken finger while an EMT who is shot at while saving the life of a child is told he's over-reacting for asking for a ballistic vest.
Our hero-worship of the athlete begins in the schools where football and baseball programs are adequately funded while academics, band and art classes are cut. College athletes are given scholarships while police candidates frequently pay for their own training with student loans and part-time jobs and firefighters stand in the middle of the road with buckets begging for training funds.
WNEP calls athletes heroes because we celebrate heroes. We build them monuments and we pay them outrageous tributes. By the way we spend our money, we have effectively elevated athletes to the level of hero while we think of teachers, police officers and firefighters as second-class citizens, lazy inept, sucking at the public teat.
We choose our heroes. We make that decision with every sports ticket, team shirt, team mug and all the other paraphernalia we buy. The blame doesn't lie with WNEP, the blame lies with us. Think about this and enjoy today's game!