"Giving our allegiance, our affection, to a sports star is a riskier proposition than ever," wrote Taylor. "Is there anyone safe to root for? Is there an athlete out there who won't make us eventually feel like a fool for holding him in high esteem?"
Taylor makes the failure of the sports hero appear to be some kind of recent phenom. His list of failed figures only went as far back as Pete Rose and OJ Simpson. Such short memories we have. In fact, sports hero's have been failing their worshippers for as long as they have been human, which is to say, they have always failed us. If we stretch our memories a little, we can recall the Black Sox scandal of 87 years ago. Think a little harder and you can go back thousands of years and recall how Goliath let down the Philistine's by failing to defeat a boy with a rock.
Taylor is right in his conclusion: living vicariously through the achievements of our sports hereos is a risky proposition.
But then he asks, "is there anyone safe to root for?"
To that question I can only answer, go down to your local homeless shelter and root for the people who show up there each day to make a difference. Go to your kid's school and root for his teacher and principal. Go out to this website and root for our troops in Iraq. Go out to ChristopherReeve.org and root for this organization to continue building on the legacy of Chris and Dana Reeve.
The secret is, Mr. Taylor, to root for something that matters. I hate to break it to you, and it may take you awhile to comprehend what I am about to say.
Professional sports doesn't matter.
Read it over and over again if it didn't make sense the first time.
Don't get me wrong -- participating in sports offers plenty of good lessons in cooperation, teamwork, striving, personal best, and healthy active lifestyle.
But at the professional level, it should be seen only as entertainment. Sports figures will always fail us when they are elevated to level of gods, because they're not gods. They're just people with a little bit of talent, nice cars, good lawyers and a lot of money.
And it seems mighty hypocritical of you Mr. Taylor, as a representative of Sports Illustrated, to be lamenting the fall of the sports hero. After all, SI has had as pivotal a role in building up Barry Bonds and other hero's as any media outlet. Build 'em up, then tear them down, eh Mr. Taylor? SI will make a profit either way.
But if you must root, and you are serious about your hero-quest, then my constructive advice to you is to root for real people, who are doing real work, that really matters.
They're out there, and a kind word from you would really make their day.