Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today's Kids and Their Sports Heroes

This morning I was listening the the Saturday edition of NPR's Morning Edition, and they were doing a story on a baseball field somewhere that was going to give the local high school a decent place to play, as well as others. I'm not that much of a sports fan, so I was only half listening, until the started talking to a 10 year old kid about how good a hitter he was. The reporter asked if he considered himself a "slugger", and he said "Yeah, I guess so". Then, in the background, you hear another kid, probably his best friend, half whisper "Barry Bonds!" The first kid was still talking about his own prowess on the diamond, but paused to say "I'M not on steroids!" before he went on.

Both funny and sad, honestly. We used to be able to look up to athletes and admire them, even dream a little of being like them some day. Honestly, I never did much of that, not being a sports fan even as a kid. But in my teens I did start reading about Eddy Merckx and Felice Gimondi and other bicycle racers... even some young kid in the western US who people were starting to talk about... some punk named Lemond who was beating older riders at their game. So, while the Barry Bonds thing doesn't hit close to home, it was pretty depressing to watch this years Tour de France and find myself thinking "who is next going to leave the race due to some doping incident or suspicion?"

Maybe those golden days when we could just admire our heroes were an illusion. It seems pretty certain that there has always been some level of chemical enhancement in many sports for a long time. But it still feels like we've lost a little innocense, when I hear a kid say "I'm not on steroids" on public radio.

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