Relative HeroesWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
June 5, 2009, The Memorial Tournament, Dublin, Ohio: Just a few yards away, Tiger Woods stepped up to putt, took a single practice swing, then tapped the ball 6 feet into the cup. The entire moment lasted just seconds and there was no doubt — not from the crowd, not from the golfball’s trajectory and certainly not from Woods — that there would be any other result.
Golf is not my sport, but seeing Woods in action was like observing Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon or any other irrefutable achievement of nature. It’s overwhelming.
Woods, who would win the tournament, was clearly a hero to many in the crowd, and no one seemed to mind as he ignored pleas for autographs as he made his way to the next hole.
As I watch my 2- and 4-year-old sons adopt heroes, from young cartoon explorers to the generic concepts of firefighters and police officers, I am more attuned to what characteristics heroes display.
On June 2, I enjoyed a lunch at the Arbors of Sylvania with Lynne Carroll, the care facility’s life enrichment director, and a dozen or so residents. In addition to enjoying several stories from lifelong Toledoans about the city’s history and culture, I met Lou and Pearl Pertcheck, who have been married for nearly 80 years. They joined us at the table, sitting side by side and sharing the story of how they met with a freshness of humor and wonder that goes a long way toward explaining how they have remained friends and partners for so many decades.
All of the residents were laughing and fully active, shaking off the effects of the years and the human body’s frailty.
That same day was colored by the nonstop discussion surrounding the perfect game denied Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga by a bad umpire call. I have seen the replay a dozen times, not to see the call Jim Joyce missed, but to watch Galarraga’s reaction, a smile and return to work that belied the outrage most people would have felt.
As a notorious sore loser, I greatly admired the poise Galarraga displayed. I curse hellfire at the inanimate object I stub a toe on; I’m sure I would have been a lot more Jack Nicholson than Jesus had I been wearing the pitcher’s cleats when the umpire robbed me of my chance at making history.
Even during his long parade of media interviews, Galarraga showed humility and good sportsmanship above and beyond the call of duty.
I witnessed another display of heroism at the June 5 Point Place Days parade. More than 90 entries marched and rolled with the parade, from simple walkers to truly inspiring floats. From the many community leaders who participated to the young baton twirlers, there was a bright and wonderful community pride on display. The crowd responded to the firefighters, police officers and veterans with patriotic zeal; it is clear who the heroes are in Point Place.
Just as the parade ended, the gray skies split and a light rain began to fall. The clouds were heavy and dark, but no one could have predicted how much — within hours — the weather would change lives.
When the Tecumseh tornado warning sirens woke me up a few hours after midnight, I reached for my BlackBerry and watched the radar weather map, then turned on the TV to see what was going on.
We get a lot of severe weather warnings, and to be honest, after years of exposure to red alerts and false alarms, the warnings lose a sense of urgency. I sat there in the dark, not wanting to wake up my wife, and definitely not wanting to wake up our boys. It looked like it was going to blow over our small town, and sure enough, it did.
But after seeing the tornado damage in Dundee and Lake Township, I will never again ignore a severe weather or tornado warning. Seeing the unbelievable damage — twisted metal, houses smashed by a giant fist from the sky and the horrific loss of life — has reawakened my respect for Mother Nature and her random temper. All I had to do to be a hero was wake my family and take them to the basement. I failed in that task, but was mercifully spared punishment.
Watching the less fortunate residents of our battered communities begin the cleanup process — which is the start of the rebuilding process — another epiphany of the meaning of heroism blossomed through my mind.
June 4, 2010, The Memorial Tournament, Dublin, Ohio: Just a few yards away, Tiger Woods stepped up to putt from the rough, took several hesitant practice swings, then popped the ball up and to the right a useless few feet, deeper into the rough.
The entire moment seemed to take forever and there was thick uncertainty — from the crowd, from the traitorous golf ball and, most alarmingly, Woods — that there would be any positive result.
Woods’ role — and our perception of him in that role — has been forever altered, and I do not think I was alone in hoping that change could be temporarily forgotten by a force-of nature performance.
Woods, who would finish 19th in the tournament, was still a hero to many in the crowd, but as he semi-moped his way to the clubhouse, he seemed off -putting and ungrateful as he ignored pleas for autographs.
Heroism, like so many things in life, is all relative.