Life presents us with a thousand paradoxes. We want meaning when often there is none. A cloud generated from fractal mathematics might look like an animal or a face, but remains solely a mathematical construct.
Baseball weaves itself into the tapestry of society. In 1964, Halberstam views the pennant races in the context of race relations. Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax shows us how the legendary southpaw emerges not only as a star but an unlikely, unwilling, and introspective Jewish hero from Bensonhurst. Koufax the 'Greek God' becomes Koufax the superstar, yet humble enough to support struggling rookies and veterans alike, while his body breaks down from Olympian innings and pitch counts literally running over 200 at times.
Fast forward to 2005. Social issues remain concerning war and peace, prosperity and ethics, privacy versus government intrusion, terrorism, religion and secularism, isolationism and imperialism. Sports heroes have the opportunity to be cultural champions, but of what? Society remains polarized concerning most of the pressing contemporary issues. Athletes who speak out have little to gain, exposing themselves to charges of ignorance, bigotry, sexism, or worse.
While we need heroes, legitimate profiles in courage, most often they are ordinary people fashioning extraordinary actions, rather than celebrities out of their arena. When an athlete or celebrity ventures into these areas, we are quick to repudiate their motives or their expertise, especially if their position conflicts with our core beliefs.
Yes, I want my heroes to be larger than life, paragons of virtue, with firm positions on critical cultural and social controversies. But here's the rub: I want an intersection with my beliefs and values, opinions based on fact not ideologies, on science and statistics, concise and logical. Yet I don't want prepackaged merchandising either, but sincere and heartfelt truths, springing from intelligence, integrity, and energy. I want too much, but I'm not giving up hope.