Do Your Heroes Have Wings?

Mark Hughes. No angel, and good guy to boot.

When I was growing up amongst my heroes was the Manchester United footballer Mark Hughes. Sparky as he was known was the scorer of great goals rather than being a great goalscorer.

By that I mean he scored unfeasibly spectacular goals that were important in important games. He won the European Cup Winners Cup for United with a brilliant driven effort, unbalanced going in the other direction. He settled cup semi finals and important league matches burying chances with an aplomb others could only dream of.

Years later when I worked at the University I had the opportunity to meet Mark. As the senior University representative at the Milk Cup Launch I had to speak on behlaf of th institution and present him with a memento of the occasion. Was I disappointed? Not in the slightest –  Sparky was a quiet spoken man, genuinely humble and when I somewhat gushingly told him I had been a fan for years he said thanks for supporting us. We chatted in a friendly way for a while before he was ushered on to his next engagement. I was even more in awe of him. He was human, humble, decent and civil. A childhood ambition fulfilled.

I have met other people I admire greatly in a sporting context, and in most occasions I have not been underwhelmed or disappointed. The likes of Padraic Joyce, Sean Óg Ó hAilpin and Peter Canavan all have that down-to-earthiness that one would expect from genuine people and especially genuine GAA people. Others I have had the misfortune to come across have been arsey and indeed up their own.

The problem arises I suppose when people ascribe characteristics to people that they don’t know very well. In that case they are in a line for a disappointment and that can be hard to handle. If my perceptions of my heroes have been largely positive, the same can’t be said of some others. . .

I have a natural aversion to class reunions and meetings with people I knew years ago. Perhaps it is because I am not proud of the person I was.  Perhaps the person I am now is unrecognisable from the me of ten, twenty years ago. Perhaps I am uncomfortable with who I was then. But then, I am not too sure what any of us would make of our grown up selves. We would at least hope that we had grown up. Sometimes that isn’t the case, long seated habits and personality traits are hard to lose.

Over recent months and years I have had occasion and indeed the misfortune in some cases to run into people I used to be friendly with as a student or in another world. Perhaps through social media like Facebook or incidental contact. One or two have chosen to email me out of the blue. It can be a strange experience. We have probably all had the awkward moment on Facebook or when opening an email that cause us to stop and take notice.

My philosophy on that is all too simple nowadays. If these people were important to you, you would still be in contact with them. Ergo if they weren’t, you’re not for a perfectly good reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *