Professional athletes are not heroes. Some, depending on the way they live their lives, could perhaps be considered role models, but idolatry should go no further than that.
Even the most upstanding ballplayers, from time to time, prove to their fans that they’re not above the conceited egotism that plagues many major league jocks. Take, for example, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, whose desire for a reported 10-year, $300 million contract has made him the source of much free-agent speculation. The home run ace rejected a contract proposal from the Cardinals last week and USA Today recently reported that he’s ceasing contract talks for the duration of the season.
Pujols is 31 years old and has played his entire career in St. Louis. The loyal fan base he’s built in the city is unrivaled. St. Louisans clearly love Pujols for his athletic ability as much as they do for his commitment to the community. He has a reputation for being an all-around good guy. Pujols and his wife, Deidre, are evangelical Christians. They describe their charity, the Pujols Family Foundation, as “a faith-based, nonprofit organization” and participate in events in St. Louis, ranging from small, church-based gatherings to large celebrations like Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium.
So, the fact that he’s apparently holding out for what may be the largest MLB contract in history doesn’t mesh well with his generous, do-gooder image. Pujols already has made more money than his family can spend in a lifetime. It’s surprising that he would leave his St. Louis fans in the dust to add a few million more dollars to a bank account that likely holds more than most of his fans will make in a lifetime. Loyalty is a two-way street.
The pro athlete mega-contract dilemma seems to be an especially unbalanced situation considering that real-life heroes are paid a fraction of what they’re actually worth.
Just last week, during a ceremony on Fort Stewart, five soldiers received Flying Cross medals and seven received Purple Hearts. After the ceremony, one honoree described the mission in Afghanistan that ultimately led to the act of bravery for which he was honored.
“It started as a routine mission,” said1st Lt. Douglas L. Hill II, who had been piloting a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter when he and his crew went to retrieve an injured U.S. soldier. “We got there and discovered three patients. One had fallen down the mountainside and broken his leg. Two others went to get him but couldn’t get back up because of heat exhaustion. We had to lower a medic on a hoist because we couldn’t land.”
While conducting the rescue, the crew came under enemy fire. Even though his aircraft took 14 rounds, Hill successfully completed the mission and saved the three wounded soldiers. He said he wasn’t really focused on the enemy fire; he was thinking about saving the lives of his comrades.
“I was not thinking about it for the simple fact that we were so close to the side of the mountain,” Hill said. “And with the wind, I was worried about being pushed into the mountain and hurting the medic or the patients. Rounds hitting the aircraft were a secondary concern.”
If Hill isn’t a hero, no one is, least of all Albert Pujols. In the face of adversity, the soldier wanted nothing more than to come through for those who depended on him. Pujols should borrow a page from Hill’s playbook and worry more about the people who’ve supported and encouraged him than his own bank account balance.