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FIRST-PERSON: The reality & cost of true heroism

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–In a tense scene from the 1986 film “Hoosiers,” the character Nora Fleener, played by Barbara Hershey, engages basketball coach Norman Dale, portrayed by Gene Hackman, in a heated discussion.

Miss Fleener shares her observation that high school basketball players in Indiana are treated like gods. Dale responds, “Most people would give their life to be treated like a god, if even for a few minutes.” Fleener replies, “Gods come pretty cheap these days; you become one by putting a leather ball through an iron hoop.”

Given the state of professional sports, Miss Fleener’s statement needs to be revised. While those with God-given athletic ability are still treated as if they were supernatural, the price tag they wear is anything but cheap. Not only are those with exceptional skill at particular games compensated with divine amounts of money, but many are also accorded the status of hero in the hearts and minds of the American public.

In spite of society’s envy of today’s professional athletes, none of them — not one — qualify for the treatment they receive or the status they enjoy. None of them are heroes in the truest sense of the word.

Don’t get me wrong, the athletic achievements of Tiger Woods on the golf course, Barry Bonds on the baseball diamond and Lance Armstrong on a bicycle are impressive; however, they would probably be the first ones to tell you they are not “real” heroes.

As we approach the anniversary of one of the most tragic events in our nation’s history, may we be reminded of what real heroism is all about. On Sept. 11, 2001, real heroes emerged. Some were firefighters, some were police personnel, others were emergency medical technicians, others were private citizens, but they all placed their lives in harm’s way for the sake of a fellow human being. Some of them lived to tell their story but many died. Jesus Christ said it best when he declared, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

Those who lost their lives as well as those who risked their lives on Sept. 11 are real heroes. However, they do not stand alone. There are many men and women who stand in their shadow who serve in each of our communities. These brave souls put their lives on the line each and every time they respond to a person’s call for help.

Those who don a badge, who answer 911 calls or rush to an injured person’s aid deserve the treatment — perhaps even some of the compensation — that is currently reserved for overpaid athletes who risk nothing but pride and slight chance of injury when they ply their trade. The men and women who serve and protect the public can never be paid enough. How much is enough for putting your life in harm’s way for the sake of another?

Ask the family member of any of the fallen heroes of Sept. 11. I am sure any one of them would trade all of Shaquille O’Neal’s endorsement money to have their loved one breathing again.

If any good did come out of the rubble and destruction of Sept. 11, it is that Americans were shown the reality and cost of true heroism.

If you really want to catch a glimpse of an authentic hero, don’t buy a ticket to a professional sports event. Save your money. Take a trip to your neighborhood fire or police station. In so doing, you can rub elbows with real heroes and not some high-priced cheap imitation.
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs