Plane & Pilot
Saturday, December 1, 2007

From The Editor: ­Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

How times have changed

For the past couple of weeks, In the Shadow of the Moon, a documentary film about the Apollo program, has been playing nearby in Hollywood. Knowing the longevity of aviation-themed movies in theaters, I figured I’d better go sooner rather than later, so a few nights ago, I sat in the dark, in awe of what we (mankind) accomplished in the late ’60s and early to mid-’70s. While nibbling popcorn (no butter, thank you) from a bucket bigger than my head, the words of Michael Collins, the command module pilot of Apollo 11, hit me like a sledgehammer.

Collins mentioned that after his Apollo flight with Aldrin and Armstrong, no matter where they went in the world, they were greeted with comments like, “We did it.” The accomplishment that these three men personified allowed, for once, people on all continents, from all religions and from all walks of life, except perhaps the Soviets, to revel in a collective “we.” We were one entity, collectively sharing in one superhuman achievement that belonged to us all, not just the Americans. These men who went to the moon were and still are actual heroes—heroes to everyone. How times have changed.

With the holidays coming, and sitting in the dark theater with nothing but my own thoughts and images flickering on a screen, I couldn’t help but lament how far away we’ve come in this world from any sense of collective achievement, human unity or oneness, or sense of pride that transcends continents because of the dearth of true heroes we don’t seem to have.

Some of you might argue, “But what about this New York Yankee or that Boston Red Sock?” If you think about it, isn’t it rather ironic to call baseball’s World Series, just that? Really, it’s an American series and a source of pride for relatively few, although I sure do love a Subway Series or season playoffs between the Yanks and Boston. Perhaps the closest sport comes to anything universal might be football, what we call soccer. As we saw with the appropriately named World Cup in Italy back in the ’90s, at least in football, passion and renown for great players sometimes do transcend borders.

Still, it’s not easy to find a panglobal sports hero these days. Between the doping in the Tour de France and steroid controversies in baseball, and the overall specificity or regionality of sport—I doubt golf is big in Kenya or Botswana, and not many people box—universal heroes from sports are few and far between.

It was President John F. Kennedy who challenged the American people, “Before this decade (the 1960s) is out, [to land] a man on the moon and return him safely to earth.” That was certainly a heroic challenge from an iconic and eloquent president. Sure, we were trying to beat the Russians in a Cold War race to the moon, but still…

Labels: ColumnsFeaturesJourneys


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