Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Heroes, Heartaches, and Healing

All of us have had, or do have, heroes. For most, those that we admire are larger than life, particularly our sports heroes. They perform feats of athletic prowess that cause us to marvel. They elicit our cheers and our devotion as they compete in the arena, representing our team, our town, in athletic competition. For most of us, our heroes become almost super human.

Take off the sweater or jersey and you find that these athletes are very much like you and me, with foibles and weaknesses that beguile them no differently than the challenges that tempt  us and try our mettle. It is easy and all too common to look past the humanity and yes, even frailty of our heroes because, well, they are our heroes.

The humanity and weakness of one of our heroes, however, was put on display for all the world to see this week as Jordin Tootoo voluntarily admitted himself to the National Hockey League's Substance Abuse Program. All of a sudden, the fearless warrior on the ice was shown to be very human, being brought down  by an addiction that had taken control of his life. Superman was no longer wearing a cape, and for many, the perception of one of our heroes was shattered.

It would be easy to say that Jordin is no longer worthy of our respect, that he is weak and has feet of clay. It would indeed be easy to turn away.

And it would be wrong.

Jordin could have easily hidden behind the facade of being a beloved professional athlete, a hero. Why face the public embarrassment of admitting a weakness? The problem would have persisted, but no one would have known.

Until it destroyed his career, and perhaps himself.

His admission of weakness and his need for help point out not only his vulnerabilites, but mine as well.

And therein lies the most heroic aspect of Jordin's situation.

A hero has admitted his weakness and need for help.

The admission of the problem is the first step in the healing process. In acknowledging his humanity and all its attendant weakness, Jordin has shown that none of us are immune to the problems of this life. And at times, life's problems overwhelm us all, and we need help.

At his lowest point and in the midst of his heartache, Jordin has admitted that the problem is bigger than he and has sought help. That took courage.

The healing process will take time, and it will be trying- mentally, emotionally, and yes physically. This will be a far tougher challenge than any Jordin has faced on the ice. The process of healing and controlling an addiction will last a lifetime.

Certainly Jordin is wrestling with demons that have tried to take control of his life. I do not know the particulars of his addiction, nor do I want to. I do not condone the behavior that has caused him this heartache.

I do know that I will support Jordin as he goes through this healing process. He will be in my prayers. There will be others around him doing the same and lifting him up when he stumbles.

And that is the most heroic thing any of us can do.


  1. A little syrupy, don't you think? Don't be such a fan. A hero is someone who puts his/her own well being at risk for the betterment of others, such as our military, firefighters, and law enforcement. Tootoo is merely a hockey player who let his celebrity and money get the better of him. Good for him trying to straighten that out, but a hero? Not even close.

  2. The entire object of the post was to point out how we elevate athletes to heroic status. And in that status- right or wrong- we tend to overlook their weakness. No doubt that our public servants are heroes, but so are our athletes. Ask any kid who is a fan. Sorry you think it's "syrupy", but the reality is that Tootoo is a hero to a lot of kids- and adults. The fact is that he has the courage to face his addictions and get help. Sorry you don't have the ability to see the point of the post.