Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius has been charged with premeditated murder of his model girlfriend. Within a year the double amputee has gone from an inspirational story for running in the Summer Olympics to a fallen star with a now-reported track record of domestic issues, being a gun-enthusiast, and accused murderer.
His story is similar to that of Lance Armstrong’s. Athletes that overcame difficult life situations and achieved great personal athletic success and in the process inspired millions of people.
The endings are different, but the same. We are left questioning ourselves as fans if we were too quick to praise and honor these humans that turned out to be much less than we made them out to be.
I say don’t blame yourself. Some of this goes back to Charles Barkley and what he said all those years ago about not being a role model. Athletes by the nature that they are in the spotlight, and doing things that so many of us wish we could, are going to be role models. The trick is for us, is to limit our admiration to what they do.
We have to attempt to separate achievement from person. Look up to the feat, not the individual. The individuals we admire should be the ones we actually get to know. Our parents. Our family. Our friends. People in our lives.
It’s great that Pistorius inspired so many. It’s fine if you are a fan of him. Even today, it’s okay to be a fan, but understand you are fan of what he did in sports, not what he has does in life.
And lastly, realize that whomever you select as a hero, as long as they are human, they are doomed to make mistakes. They will fail in some way at some point and fall short. It is our fate as humans.
It doesn’t mean they aren’t heroes and that we can’t have heroes. It is just a reminder to keep things in perspective.