The focus this week on Lance Armstrong and his long awaited doping admission in an interview with Oprah airing tonight on her network has sparked a renewed look at how Americans create heroes.
Millions of Americans looked up to Armstrong, wore the Live Strong armbands, and supported his charities. He was a cycling role model, bringing national attention to the sport. He was the face of cancer survivors, giving others hope for a normal, active future after conquering the disease.
But it turns out Armstrong is human after all, and despite years of denials, is opening up about his lies, his use of performance enhancing drugs, and ultimately, how he has prospered from his deceit.
In light of his admissions, he will most likely be stripped of his Tour de France titles, his earnings, his legacy and his reputation, not to mention the position of hero to many.
While some may say Armstrong is just another athlete who has fallen from grace, the question seems to be why do we expect so much from our athletes and other celebrities? He was still a great athlete, and he gave countless hours and dollars to help and inspire others stricken with cancer. He has moral failings and bad judgment, but that’s what makes him human.
As individuals and as parents, we as a society need to remember that heroes are just as flawed as everyone else, no matter how great a singular achievement may be. Even Achilles, the mythical perfect combination of human and god, was flawed, with only one spot, his heel, that could be penetrated to kill him.
Nobody’s perfect, and when choosing role models to emulate, the best place to begin that search is at home. Parents should be their children’s role models for good, honesty, decency and morality. Celebrities and athletes are just celebrities and athletes—no better and more perfect than anyone else.