When our golden idols reveal their clay feet

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2003

How many times are we going to hear 'Sammy, say it ain't So-sa" this week? It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

I think one of the greatest problems we face as a nation and a people is the lack of heroes in our lives, a lack that is completely our own fault. And by our own, I include the members of the public, not just the members of the press. We look for heroes and when we think we've found them, we build them up and up until there is no way they can live up to our expectations, much less their own. Then, almost gleefully, we begin shaking them down from the pedestal we erected in the first place.

Even our soldiers and firefighters and police officers,

the truest heroes we've had in decades. How much longer will it be before we start hearing stories of atrocities they committed, or simply mistakes they made?

In the fluffier field of celebrity, we now have Sammy Sosa and Martha Stewart in the penalty box. … tsk tsk. Clinton, JFK, Ingrid Bergman, Richard Chamberlain (revealing the worst-kept secret in Hollywood) - so many of our heroes have failed to meet our standards and have let us down…. What horrible sins they have committed, what terrible wrongs they have done - they are no longer worthy of our adulation.

What a crock of manure. Their greatest sin is that they were human, a sin we all share. True, they contributed to their own fall from grace, by cheating, by having affairs, by insider trading. But don't we all contribute to our own fall, betrayed by our own weaknesses? Fame? Lust? Greed? But because most of us are beneath the notice of the media and out of the spotlight of celebrity, our own falls usually pass without much notice.


with my mother's St. Louis blood running deep in my veins, I'm a Mark McGwire fan , not a Sammy fan. I confess to being one of those gloating about how Martha will look in industrial gray since Roseanne is closer to my concept of domestic goddess than the Queen of the Cloisonn Flowerpot. I'm more concerned about what our presidents' politics than their peccadilloes, and I've kept my search for heroes limited to romance novels and science fiction movies. But despite the fact that none of my heroes who fell this week, I still feel for them and for their fans, and I wish they would "say it ain't so."

My major in college was English, with an emphasis on Shakespeare, who has written about some of the greatest heroes of all time. And guess what? His heroes are flawed too. In the Bible, Moses lost his temper, Jonah ran away and David sent Uriah to the front lines to be killed, just so he could have the soldier's wife for his own. These are heroes? These flawed human beings?

The secret is how the flaw is handled. Martha - handled badly, attempting to hide one mistake by covering it up with more. Clinton? Oh, so very badly, for the same reasons.

King David?

Sincere repentance, he actually learned from his mistake, which is probably the hardest thing for any of us to do.

As for Sammy? This month will see how Sosa handles the situation, and may determine how well he - and his fans - recover from it.

With the exception of one notable man, born about 2000 years ago, we are all flawed, and their are no golden idols without clay feet. It is for us to decided whether not we want to love our heroes despite their flaws or continue our hopeless quest for heroes without them.