Rise and fall of heroes

When does a hero cease to be a hero? Take Lance Armstrong for example: what a disaster for the sport but more importantly for the good he’s also done in cancer etc.Take Hansie Cronje and then you get folk heroes like Che Guevara who will remain a hero despite his brutality. Of course you then also have a variety of folk heroes whose lives are shrouded in mysticism and romanticised like Bonnie and Clyde; Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Ned Kelly who were just violent criminals; and then you have the likes of William Wallace, Guy Fawkes etc. In some cultures, heroes will include Osama bin Laden; Robert Mugabe and even our own Julius. Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of thousands of Jews and died it is said in Lubyanka prison is a largely unsung hero (although there are quite a number of statues in his honour) but never to the extent that a Che is honoured among the masses.

My take of a hero is a somewhat ordinary person who does extraordinary deeds in extraordinary times/conditions.

A hero is someone we admire in spite of his frailties. If they did not suffer human imperfections, they’d be superheros. Which are fictional. I’ve dusted off and flipped through my copy of Lance’s now somewhat ironically titled It’s not about the Bike, in which he describes his struggle with cancer and his first Tour victory. I still think there is much left to be admired. Maybe its just sentiment - Lance was THE guy that we all looked up to during the days when I was a serious amateur - but for now I’m quite happy to keep him in my little box of heroes, albeit slightly further to the left.


I think this is difficult to answer because one man’s hero is another’s villain or a terrorist to a freedom fighter and so on. Timing also play a role (can the sport hero live a clean life? - Joost, Hansie). Maybe real hero status can only come with age, if they still talk good things about you after, lets say, a 100 years I suppose you’ve earned it

Exactly. The whole sordid topic is entirely faddish and subjective, however skewed in one or the other direction any particular case may be. Both Hitler and Mandela are hero and villain, depending on whom you ask, and when. All that’s needed to evoke a label of “hero” or “villain” is action or thinking that is sufficiently controversial.


I think it’s important to identify a collection of heroes for oneself as it modulates behaviour. You know, WWJD and all that. :stuck_out_tongue:

A hero is proof that our ideals are attainable in practice.


Guess it is a subjective thing and influenced by value systems but also propaganda that hides some of the less savory aspects of the manner in which these heroes attained their status. People will believe what they want to believe; Mugabe was a great freedom fighter and that’s what he’ll be remembered for by his people.
The commercialization of heroes is seemingly a more recent phenomenon (Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong et al) and yes they all have their frailties and boom down they come from their lofty pedestals. Pity though. The world needs heroes and role models.

All this hero talk reminds my of a song by John Paul Young - Yesterday’s Hero. To big to attach here, but Joost and Lance really fit the bill.