Be careful who your heroes are, in case that hadn’t occurred to you by now. We are periodically told that young people need heroes in their lives. You might as well say young people need to have psychological time bombs inserted into their heads. Because guess what? Given a little time, heroes turn out to be people. And people are flawed. Sometimes, very badly flawed! And when you have imprinted your brain circuitry with the outline of your ‘hero,” and he/she turns out to be an [unrespected body part], well then what you have as residue is a rather toxic variant of disillusionment. If disillusionment is your goal for kids, there are less damaging avenues available, that don’t lead directly to cynicism.

Adults can play this hero-having game too, and do. I am astonished at how many adults were very into this Mr. Lance Armstrong, hero, thing. Since I didn’t follow these heroics as they were happening, you should pay little attention to what I have to say here. But what I didn’t understand at the time was everybody’s certainty that he wasn’t doping. I kind of assumed he probably was, given the, uh, rather obvious widespread use of “performance enhancing techniques.” And if he was, he was already a liar, in addition to being a cheater. Hero material? Seemed like buyer beware to me, at the very least.

And “sports heroes”? Really? For adults? You know, isn’t a hero supposed to be someone who puts his life at risk for the sake of others? Is this what comes to mind when you think of sports stars? Go ahead and marvel at somebody’s talent, and thrill at the beauty of the athleticism. But if you’re going to put these people at the top of your personal pantheon of admiration, you’re acting like a child. How disillusioning!