• Bill Althaus: True sports heroes hard to come by

  • When I was a kid growing up in Independence, I had my favorite sports heroes: Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson.

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  • When I was a kid growing up in Independence, I had my favorite sports heroes: Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson.
    Mantle was a flawed individual who made amends for a life of drunken debauchery before passing away with liver cancer.
    Namath embarrassed himself in a drunken interview on a nationally televised football game when he told a female sideline reporter that he just wanted to kiss her.
    And O.J.? Well, we all know about O.J., don't we?
    While Namath underwent counseling and rehab and is now clean and healthy, it just shows that in the eyes of a youngster like me, I only cared about their performance on a sunny July afternoon in old Municipal Stadium where the Mick and his Yankee teammates would take on the Kansas City Royals or how Joe Willie and the Juice performed in the same venue on a icy Sunday in December against the Kansas City Chiefs.
    We've all had heroes. And today, it must be very difficult for a young fan to determine who is worth a poster on his or her bedroom wall.
    Major League Baseball suffered through one of its darkest days recently when no one was voted into the shrine by the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which I am a member.
    I think it's a shame the steroid cloud that hangs over the sport possibly kept players like Craig Biggio and Mike Piaza from their place in the Hall. Cheaters like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro will never be voted into the Hall, and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens and all-time home run king Barry Bonds – both first-year members on the ballot – failed to get 30 percent of the vote.
    Then, you have the curious case of Lance Armstrong, the cancer survivor who has singlehandedly brought down the sport of cycling.
    He told Oprah Winfrey in a candid interview on her Oprah Winfrey Network that he did indeed cheat by doping.
    Just read this conversation between Winfrey and Armstrong, and try to register an opinion on the seven-time Tour de France winner.
    “I'm a flawed character,” he said.
    Did it feel wrong?
    “No,” Armstrong said. “Scary.”
    “Did you feel bad about it?” Winfrey asked.
    “No,” he said. “Even scarier.”
    “Did you feel in any way that you were cheating?”
    “No,” Armstrong said. “Scariest. I went and looked up the definition of 'cheat.' And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn't view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”
    To be that consumed by a sport is scary.
    Page 2 of 2 - Just ask the disgraced former Sports Illustrated Man of the Year and the founder of Livestrong.
    Then, you have the stranger-than-strange case of Notre Dame star Manti Te'o.
    He talked about an online girlfriend who died of leukemia. It was the grab-a-box-of-Kleenex story that adds texture and heart to the violence he created on the football field – the All-American linebacker battled on despite the loss of his grandmother and his girlfriend.
    But now, we find out it is all a hoax.
    An Associated Press review of news coverage found: “The Heisman Trophy runner-up talked about his doomed love in a Web interview on Dec. 8 and again in a newspaper interview published Dec. 10. He and representatives of Notre Dame said Wednesday that he learned on Dec. 6 that it was all a hoax; that not only wasn't she dead, she wasn't real.”
    So children of all ages, take those Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o posters off your walls and replace them with photos of Mom and Dad or your Little League or PeeWee coaches and teammates.
    They may not be as flashy or impressive to your friends, but at least they will represent a group of folks who should never let you down the way your sports heroes have for decades.

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