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Don't be surprised when your heroes disappoint you


I have often wondered why it was said that one should never meet their hero. We all have them as we all admire and look up to other people. I recently did some research around this topic and apparently, very often our heroes are inevitably going to disappoint us.

In my opinion, the word hero is overused nowadays. What does the word 'hero' mean to you? I believe that good role models and heroes are not necessarily the same thing. Those whom we chose as our heroes may not be good role models. But why is that?

In Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech he references the notion of the "content of one's character". When it comes to our heroes it is proven that we actually care little about their character. We are enthralled with our heroes and they can do no wrong in our eyes. We hold them up on a pedestal whether it be for their fame, style, attitude or success.

Think of the disgrace, rumours and accusations surrounding the likes of once common heroes such as Tiger Woods, Ryan Giggs, Kate Moss, Lance Armstrong and Michael Jackson, or one my own childhood heroes, Florence Joyner or 'Flo Jo' as she was known.

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They did not set a good example for their supporters, nor did their actions portray them as people to be admired or emulated. They ignored the view that with great power comes great responsibility.

Regardless of some their values, beliefs and integrity - or lack thereof - we often become so enamoured with their status and influence that we overlook their deceit and unscrupulous decision making. The fascination with our heroes can override the warning signs and their behaviour can indirectly impact on our own actions, morals and principles. This can spell trouble for each of us when making decisions of our own, as we can fall into the trap of thinking, "I want to be/act like them".

I look at Conor McGregor and worry about the influence he has on the younger generation in particular. He is a hero in the eyes of many all around the world, irrespective of gender and age.

I was once an admirer of 'The Notorious'. I respected that he challenged himself to turn his body into an athletic machine. Despite the continuous debate around Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) - his sport of choice - he still pushed himself beyond his perceived limits to get himself in unbelievable physical condition.

Unfortunately, the gloss surrounding his 'trash talk' began to wear off when he decided it was appropriate to insult people and imply that he was bigger than his sport.

His lavish lifestyle is a result of fame received through MMA, yet he feels the sport owes him something. No one is irreplaceable, especially in sport.

MMA, like all sports has diverse characters involved and each brings their own unique personality to the table to keep the entertainment value high. Look at the GAA and the likes of Davy Fitzgerald, the Clare manager and Dan Shanahan of Waterford, who provide entertainment without ever stepping over the white line. However, when people like McGregor abuse their position and lead their impressionable followers astray with their unacceptable conduct, then they can no longer be seen as positive role models.

Conversely, I do believe that therein exists in society heroes that are also good role models. Take another sportsperson and hero of many, Katie Taylor. Her reputation precedes her. She is going for her sixth consecutive world championship boxing title this month, yet still remains as humble and unassuming as ever.

She is defined by her relentless work ethic and desire to improve, not by what she says. She doesn't talk the talk, but she certainly walks the walk.

I am proud to say I work with Katie for the Sky Sports Living for Sport Programme. When she lost last month - for the first time in five years - she was almost apologising to people for letting them down, when quite the opposite was true.

She, like the most successful sportspeople, may have failed but she kept her dignity, didn't blame anyone or make excuses for her loss. She just vowed to come back better and stronger in the future. Katie is of the opinion that a word of encouragement during a setback is worth more than an hour of praise after success.

She doesn't want all the credit, nor does she want to be told that she alone brings the fame to Irish boxing. She simply wants to use her talents to inspire others and create a legacy of which she can be proud.

This is the type of message we need to send to younger people; this is the type of hero that is required in our country. There are thousands that list Katie Taylor as their hero but if you were to ask them if they box the majority would answer with a resounding 'no'. The sport is irrelevant as what Katie stands for is all that matters.

Be more concerned about your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Forget your hero's reputation, see beyond it and look at who they are as a person. Choose wisely.