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Role Models and Heroes

Kids Count

Young children often see their parents as heroes as well as those that act as caretakers or as situational parents such as teachers, daycare providers and so on.

As children age; they may identify sports figures, actors, actresses or celebrities as heroes. Their heroes could range from professional wrestlers, snow boarders, skate boarders or musicians. Sept. 11, 2001, helped a new generation of children to see firefighters, policemen and emergency medical responders as heroes.

In my youth, Mickey Mantle was a hero to millions of Americans. Mantle, from Spavinaw, Okla., rode a meteoric arc in his baseball career that seemed to identify and validate the, “American dream.” Before his knee injury, it was said that he could make first base faster than any other player. He was a devastating power hitter from both sides of the plate and played the game with great skill. He seemed to always be smiling that Hollywood perfect smile, full and glamorous. Locker-room interviews featured a shirtless Mantle, chiseled good looks and bristling muscles; an elite athlete.

Mantle was featured in hundreds of advertisements during and after his playing days. Advertisements for cigarettes and cigars and one that featured a pill that would help people quit smoking. He was a spokesperson for a gun maker, baseball gloves, bats, shoes and beer.

Given the time and media technologies of the day, Mantle may have been bigger than Jeter, Jordan and A-Rod. He may have been bigger because people did not resent Mantle as they do some modern stars for the multi-million dollar contracts and rich advertisement deals that they enjoy.

The press loved Mantle too, and did not crucify him for his alleged alcohol abuse, womanizing and apparent abandonment of his role as a father of four children. Today, the media would not afford athletes, politicians, move stars or any famous person the protection that was afforded Mantle.

Reach the writer at wildblue.net.

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