It is amazing how quickly people forget. On Sept. 11, 2001, I had thought all of America had learned to have new respect for the word "hero." But in the eight years that have gone by, I have heard that word hurled at all sorts of people.
The one that infuriates me is when any over-paid professional athlete is called a "hero." Excuse me? A criminal like Michael Vick is not any sane person's idea of a hero. Only that rare athlete that triumphs over a physical challenge or illness deserves to be called a hero. I, for one, would stand and cheer for Lance Armstrong or figure skater Scott Hamilton anytime, anywhere.
I could even understand athletes who can lay claim to landmark achievements being seen as heroes -- the longtime grace and talent of New York Yankee Derek Jeter are worth celebrating, worth emulating. But such should be the exception -- not the rule.
On Sept. 11, 2001, a small army of police and firemen ran into unspeakable danger at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when everyone else was desperately trying to run away. Those men and women were heroes. So were the many thousands of rescue workers who labored at those attack sites, compromising their health -- they too were heroes, and some have already paid with their lives, and many are being denied help with crippling medical costs. Shame on our country for treating these heroes so shabbily!
All sports commentators please take note: let's treat the word "hero" with greater care. Label "stars" and "celebrities" as what they are -- heroes are just that . . . heroes.