(This column was written
I am in a reflective mood ... thinking back not only to when I was a kid in
We had heroes and they were genuine.
My personal hero was the
Tommy Harmon, whom I met years later and was my partner in forming the first radio sports network, pre-dating ESPN by years, was a true hero.
Shot down twice during World War II, this Heisman trophy winner, walked out of the jungle to become
The airwaves and sports were filled with men and women of character. They never had to stoop to use "potty" language, as Bill Cosby would say. My late friends Francis "Chick" Hearn and Ernie Harwell were such men. Today, Vin Scully continues that tradition. Not only is he a hero to masses, but also like the others he remains a simple family man dedicated to those he loves.
The FCC used to frown on foul language and a station could lose its license if an announcer used smut, or did anything unethical. The word "hell" could cause such trouble.
On-air news, plus news-related programming was above reproach. It was the era when they didn't allow advertising to taint their broadcasts. In those days, news was presented uninhibited and factual. To be on the air, you had to be a pillar of the community.
Alas, those days are gone! Today, off-color language permeates the landscape. A disgraced politician caught with a lady of the night is rewarded with his own television show. A commentator showcasing congressional candidates to the world quietly is contributing to their campaigns. He is slapped on the wrist and in an arrogant flaunting fashion, after two days suspension, returns to the air more filled of himself than ever.
Females who have contributed nothing to society except appearing in a lewd, salacious sex tapes are rewarded with their own reality shows. A young actress with a serious problem of flaunting the law publically displaying her drunkenness is adored for the wrong reason by a celebrity-starved public.
I ask, where have the heroes gone?
During my career, I was lucky that I dealt in sports for the most part, with men of great character. However, I too had my share of perpetrating an occasional fraud on the public.
My role with Evel Knievel and the
Don't get me wrong! I still love sports and there are still some true heroes! It was easy for me to run the "Andy Williams San Diego Open"(golf). I knew from working with him for years that the face the public saw was genuine. Our shows personified good bBroadcasting and life values.
I first met and worked with Wayne Gretsky when he was just 20. He was with the Edmonton Oilers. Here, nicknamed "The Great One," was an unassuming hero to millions of adoring hockey-crazed Canadians. Quietly, I watched how he treated everyone with dignity and respect. I saw how caring he was to not only his mother and father, but to the club houseboy named "Joey."... A "special" person. Wayne never worked to earn respect as he came by it naturally. Now, years later, he still carries himself in the same dignified manner.
I spent a great deal of time working with Muhammad Ali. You do not have to agree with his stand on the Vietnam War... most don't ... but you have to respect his conviction to his religious principles. He gave up his career at its height for what he believed.
I did not know Pat Tillman of the
These men and many others were heroes. Today, in this chaotic fast paced world, too many of us do not stop to smell the roses and heed the lessons of our parents. We idolize radio pundits, immoral people, and egomaniacal individuals who care only for themselves contributing nothing to life's passing. A handsome actor, who is a drunk and lecherous, is not a hero!
I ask, "Where are the heroes?" They're out there! We just have to look.