Thursday, July 5, 2012

Choosing Our Heroes

Nice Guys Finish Last. I'd like to amend this adage. I grew up playing tennis in the Arthur Ashe era. I watched him confront race barriers with dignity, felt proud when he served our country in the armed forces, and mourned his loss when he succumbed at a young age to the AIDS virus contracted from a tainted blood transfusion during open heart surgery. From the age of 13 or so, whenever the question of idols came up, Arthur Ashe was my ready answer. I certainly went through the usual variety of fleeting pre-teen/teen interests: Tab Hunter, bad boy Fabian, or any number of Mouseketeers to name a few, but none endured like Arthur Ashe. No one came close.
 So, how is it that we choose our heroes during the impressionable years? I picked someone I might have been comfortable meeting. I would have done anything for a chance to talk to Arthur Ashe about things that count. We would have talked about tennis, and I know he would have given me good advice about the tough issues that accompany maturing and setting goals. In retrospect, I was fortunate to have chosen strength of character and vision for qualities to look for in a hero. I think I understood what mattered, a legacy from my parents that I hope will live on in my grandchildren as they look for someone to emulate in their impressionable preteen years. I’m sure my parents shook their heads, as I do now, when I survey the options of media-touted idols that range from honorable to flagrantly outrageous.
I hope my grandsons will eventually understand that nice guys not only finish, but they last. Arthur Ashe's programs for kids endure to this day through the Arthur Ashe US Open Kids’ Day; his influence seems to have no shelf life. Tab Hunter, Fabian, where are they now?