Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Real Heroes May Not Be The Celebrities

When I was a little kid I became immersed in Baseball. I wanted to play it. I wanted to read about it. I wanted to hear my Uncles, Cousins and older relatives talk about it. Whenever there was discussion of their favorite teams there was always laughter and pride as though the teams represented them personally. When I was about nine years old I was taken to a Yankee game by an older cousin, who by the way was a wounded warrior only a year or two later as he was almost killed in The Battle of The Bulge, a great WW II landmark battle that helped change the direction of the world forever. Guys like Joe DiMaggio were in the Army and playing center-field was a player named Johnny Lindell, a big tall guy who came up as a pitcher in 1940 but was converted to an outfielder because he could hit and he was available for some reason from being drafted into the service. I remember very little about that game except Lindell made a shoestring catch and did a tumble sauce and came up on his feet running to the infield with his glove hand held high showing he held onto the ball and the crowd was on their feet cheering, whistling and very happy. From that day on Johnny Lindell was my hero and I wore his number, 27, on my uniform. He played on some great Yankee teams into the 1950's but never was a star like Dimage just a real good player and my hero. When I played stick-ball or softball I imagined I was Johnny Lindell, knew all his statistics. Eventually he became older and finished his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a knuckle-ball relief pitcher. He disappeared from the back sport pages until he finally was taken out of the game for good. My hero had clay feet like all of us and my dreams could keep him alive but the reality is his time came and went as all time must come and go. But I still see that fabulous catch on that sunny day some 70 years ago, that will never die, that is until I will.

Movie goers, TV watchers, theatre goers all immerse themselves in the play, series, characters and actors that bring these entertainments to life. We lose ourselves as the story develops and the characters take on flesh and blood by the actors who portray them. The realities are lost in our fantasies which many times actually let us forget that the actors and the characters they play are not the same people.  Humphrey Bogart lives forever as the tough guy who came up from the streets but in reality he came from a well to do well educated family. But can we separate him from Rick in "Casablanca" who loved Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and walked off with Claude Raines (Louie), saying "This could be the start of a great friendship."?  He was the tough guy who lived a hard life, drank, smoked was invincible. But reality crept in and he died from lung cancer in his fifties yet he will live forever in the characters he created on screen and what we as the public created off screen. AND What about Clark Gable? His signature role, for which he did NOT win an academy award, was Rhett Butler in "Gone With The Wind" who told Scarlet O'Hara  (Vivian Leigh) at the end of the picture when she was pleading with him to stay, "Frankly, my dear. I don't give a damn!".  Dashing, an adventurer who could not lose even when the odds were stacked against him. In real life he had failed marriages, wore false teeth and the actresses complained of very bad breath they were forced to endure in close-up love scenes.

My point is that we need diversions from the miseries of our own lives so we can function until there is no need to function anymore. These plays, stories, teams, performers, yes athletes are performers and nothing more, all give us a respite from the ruts we occasionally find ourselves in. By the way Politicians are also performers with whom we get intimately involved with because what they do does actually affect us greatly. But we are disappointed when our heroes have feet of clay. We forget that only the plays are make believe. The sporting contests are miniature plays being played within the confines of the rules, time, innings and so on but when over the performers live their lives, they are no longer playing a game for us. We are disappointed when one does drugs, or gets involved with a beauty or the beauty gets involved with her boy toy.

A little make-believe is OK but when it becomes something that rules our lives perhaps it is time to step back and put our heroes and the make-up stories they create and we create about them aside and step back into reality. Instead of admiring a love story on the screen, have a real one yourself. Make the star of your fantasy your spouse, your lover. Instead of wanting to jump tall buildings at a single bound be happy with a glass of wine and your lover in your arms. Instead of those Johnny Lindells you remember making that head over heels catch maybe remember your father who always got up and went to work so you could eat and be clothed and your mother who always had a meal ready for you while she made sure you wore clean underwear just in case you were in an accident. Don't forget our heroes who make us dream but while remembering them don't forget who the real heroes in our lives are.

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