I thought another championship for my favorite sports team, the Chicago Blackhawks, meant another summer of fun stories: Who had the Stanley Cup recently? What did he do with it, and where?
Then came the news that star forward Patrick Kane is under criminal investigation in a sexual assault case.
My belief in the presumption of innocence battles with anger that even the appearance of something this wrong, this evil, could happen.
But by the second day of the case, I was noticing words in nearly every story about it — the same words: hero, idol, hero worship, idolize.
So, as usual, I went to my dictionary.
I’ll be quick to admit that Patrick Kane has done some heroic things on the ice, such as scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2010 (a feat no Chicago skater had accomplished in the previous 49 years).
But Patrick Kane is not worthy of hero worship. No human is. My Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary defines hero worship as “1. the worship of heroes, practiced by ancient nations; reverence paid to, or to the memory of, heroes or great men. 2. exaggerated or excessive reverence or admiration for heroes or other important persons.”
Oh really, U.S.A.? Ancient nations?
The definition of idol is closely related: “1. an image of a god, used as an object or instrument of worship; sometimes said of any heathen deity. 2. any object of ardent or excessive devotion or admiration. 3. a) an image; effigy b) anything that has no substance but can be seen, as a shadow or an image in a mirror (obs.)”
Exaggerated, excessive reverence, admiration or devotion? How about 60,000 people turning up to celebrate a championship — without even seeing a game at the same time? Hmmm.
Such attention, along with not just attention to playing ability, but advertisements, haircuts (or the lack thereof), and all other parts of life must be enough to turn anyone’s head.
Whether you are a Christian (as I am) or not, you’ve probably heard of the Ten Commandments — and the very first, in Exodus 20:2-3, is “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.”
No other gods. Worshipping people — “stars,” “celebrities,” “heroes” or other idols — is wrong.
Part of that obsolete definition of idol keeps catching my attention: “anything that has no substance but can be seen.”
Admiring someone’s skill in one area shouldn’t go overboard into declarations of “You can do anything (or everything)! You’re perfect!”
Nobody can do everything. Not you, not me, and not Patrick Kane.
I wrote in an earlier post that “I hold ‘my’ team to high standards; I don’t just love everything about them.” I follow the Blackhawks, and I enjoy them, but I don’t care to be called a fan. (The post, “Fan? Fancier? Fanatic? Me?!” was here at Margaret Serious, but linking is not working just now.)
No criminal charges have been filed as of this writing. (There’s a sentence I never imagined needing to write involving the Blackhawks.) Still, the investigation of Kane falls farther from those standards of mine than anything I’ve experienced.
I’m keeping my standards. Hero worship, idols and idolize are not words worth avoiding — they’re words worth defending. They’re words we need for ideas worth avoiding.
Could it be that idol worship is prohibited because of its terrible effects on its objects as well as its practitioners?
As the case proceeds, let’s use the words with great care.
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