Several months ago, while driving home for lunch, I turned the corner and looked down a cordoned-off 9th Street and saw six or seven Crescent City Police Officers and Sheriff's officers "black and whites" with their overhead lights flashing.
Numerous fire trucks faced a large green house, with a soot-silhouetted upstairs window, the lawn and street glistening as hoses were being retrieved. The air was filled with smoke and the crackle of radio-dispatch calls. Everywhere, men and women in uniform took reports or pictures, while others comforted the occupants or peeled out of sweat-drenched fire gear.
Laterthat afternoon, I was told by a neighbor that a grease fire had exploded, threatening the entire upstairs where numerous children and an infant were staying. I was also told that the cops and firemen had arrived literally in minutes, immediately evacuating everyone, while saving the home from destruction and some terrified kids from harm.
Walking back to my house, that scene behind me, I couldn't get away from another one, indelibly etched 6 years ago this week when my cousin and 3,500 Americans died in the Trade Towers and the Pentagon. The pain and anger still resonates acutely-toward the man who planned it and another who placed his apprehension on a back-burner.
That said, today I am thinking of our national obsession with hero-worship. For some inexplicable reason, we tend to look to professional athletes in an arena that Howard Cosell once adroitly called America's "Toy Department."
I look at Barry Bonds, the baseball slugger who just passed Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron's home run records. Inescapable is the conclusive proof of Bond's illegal use of steroids that saw his career meteorically take off in his late 30's when mortal players usually are on the decline. Not to mention, a refusal to testify in front of a grand jury, testing positive for amphetamines in 2007, then blaming it on teammate Mark Sweeney and a face that holds more water than Shamoo.
Pro basketball's greatest player, Laker Kobe Bryant, was charged with the sexual assault and rape of a 19 year-old in Denver. The victim wilted in the criminal case, then took a major cash settlement. Kobe, claiming the liason consensual, repaired his fractured marriage vows and image with a 4 carat diamond ring and a new tattoo bearing the 23rd Psalm.
On the gridiron, Atlanta Falcons star Michael Vick recently pled guilty to breeding fighting dogs. Some of those deemed unworthy of Mr. Vick's killer instinct were drowned or electrocuted. In testament to his "changed man" status, Mr. Vick just weeks ago accepted Christ into his life, no doubt praying forhis 8-figure acceptance back into the NFL, as well as Heaven.
If one wonders why I would selectively single out only the more unsavory in our national pantheon of "heroes," I had only one criteria-each of them last year sold the most game jersey memorabilia in their respective sports.
Charles Barkley had it right when he said people shouldn't look to him for their role model. Likewise, numbers 25, 24 and 7. They're only ordinary human beings who do extraordinary things with a stuffed animal's hide. And if they fall off their pedastles, maybe it's becauseyou and Iput them up thereto begin with.
As for real heroes, especially from 2001 to 2007, I don't think they're that hard to find. Like most of the best and true things in this life, they're right there in front of us ... or maybe just a half a block down 9th Street in your hometown.
Jon Alexander is an attorney in Crescent City.