During our lives I’m sure we have all had someone who we have looked up to. Some we may have placed on a pedestal, and maybe even given hero status. I’m no different, and from an early age have always had someone as my hero.
As a 6-year-old in Junior School, Andrew ‘Blackie’ Blacklock was someone I looked up to, and my hero. He was 5 years older, about 5 feet taller than me, and in my eyes he could do no wrong. A great sportsman and a perfect role model for someone aged 6. Not that I was bothered about a role model when I was 6. I was just amazed at how he could play football, cricket, rounders, anything!!
Well, as time moves on, so sometimes do heroes. As Blackie went on to comprehensive school, my hero – apart from several footballers – then became one Ian Terence Botham. He was a breath of fresh air to English cricket, and although not everyone’s cup of tea, he played cricket like no other. Exciting, powerful, charismatic, he again could do no wrong. I remember coming home from holiday in 1981 and listening on the car radio while he single-handedly (well, with a bit of help from Willis and Dilley) destroyed the Australians at Headingley. He brought England from certain defeat to win the ’81 Ashes. They became known as Botham’s Ashes and nobody in England whites has come close since 1981.
The 80’s and 90’s saw my list of heroes grow. Botham stayed, but was joined by U2, Bon Jovi, Philip Smith (trumpet player), Rowan Atkinson, Laurel and Hardy, The Two Ronnies, Marco Gabbiadini, Peter Reid, Super Kevin Phillips (all Sunderland AFC), Gary Connolly (Wigan Rugby League), Kim Wilde, Madonna, Shawni from Baywatch (obviously the last 3 for different reasons!!!). The mid 90’s and noughties saw the addition of Alan Shearer and Lance Armstrong (and Shania Twain!!).
Heroes come and go. We grow out of some, some let us down, some grow in stature:
- Botham went on to commentate on TV and raise millions for Leukemia research.
- Kim Wilde is a gardener on TV and Shawni can be seen now on Baywatch repeats (so I’ve been told).
- U2, Bon Jovi, Philip Smith, Rowan Atkinson, and even Madonna are still brilliant.
- Laurel & Hardy and The Two Ronnies will always be the greatest.
- Marco moved to Crystal Palace, Peter Reid never bought more players when he should have (although I will always thank him for my best memories as a Sunderland fan), Super Kev left but will still be remembered as great.
- Alan Shearer left Blackburn Rovers to join Newcastle United – a day I will never ever forget. I remember seeing him on TV being presented to the Newcastle fans as I shouted ‘Don’t do it Alan!!’. As it turns out, thankfully he didn’t win anything with them, but he has still been the premiership’s best striker.
- Then there is Lance Armstrong. What can I add to what has already been said. I bought his books, wore the live strong band and watched each tour de france he competed in avidly. One of the greatest stories ever told, how he came back from life-threatening cancer and beat his colleagues in one of the hardest tests taken by any athlete. He literally could do no wrong for me. He was the best.
Well you all know what happened. I still have heroes, some still from this list and some other additions, but they are all human and, just like you and me, they can make mistakes. Let’s try together to keep our mistakes to a minimum and if we are heroes for some, let’s try not to let them down.