I don’t know how many of you watch those award shows that seem to inundate television these days. There are awards for the best of Hollywood, Broadway, Television, and all variety of music. Seems to me they can find more reasons for an award ceremony than there are actual participants to whom awards can be presented. Nevertheless they continue.
A big part of most of those ceremonies is the walk down the “Red Carpet” by the celebrities and their dates. Frankly, I haven’t watched an awards show in a number of years but it is difficult to miss the red carpet trips because those seem to inundate the news. It is really hard for me to stomach the fake pretense of the women dressed in those gowns costing so many dollars, and the guys acting as if they are too good to touch the hand of a common every day lady. Sort of disgusting to me.
The history of the “Red Carpet” as it is written comes from the Greek Tragedy of Agamemnon where warriors returning from a bloody battle walked down a path painted crimson to mark their return. In the 1800s, the “Red Carpet” was first officially used for dignitaries, most times those important in governments around the world. Somehow, all that morphed into the show now put on each time there is an awards ceremony. Doesn’t do a thing for me.
What this is all concerning is my thoughts on the state of the world today in search of heroes worthy of emulation by the young folks. I don’t think of myself as an “old fogey” (Hush Jeff) but I have problems with what I’m seeing with the kids today. Do we want them to emulate Brittany Spears? Kanye West? Miley Cyrus? Justin Bieber? How about some of the sports figures who reign atop the worlds of Basketball? Football? Baseball? Really? Any of them worth it?
How about our movie stars? Do we want our kids getting thrown off planes for failing to turn off their cell phones when asked? Do we want the spoiled brats endangering the public with their reckless ways? Where are the real heroes today?
Speaking of Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus, both of those young “ladies” were, at one time, members of the Disney Family. Those of you old enough to remember Annette Funicello know that even when her Mouseketeer Days were over, she still honored requests from Walt Disney to represent Disney in an honorable light. What would old Walt think of Brittany and Miley? Man, I don’t even want to think about that.
You know, it’s not coincidental that I’m writing this Legendtorial just a couple of days after the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. I watched everything I could over the past week about the D-Day Invasion and the ceremonies in France commemorating that day. Literally a day that changed the future of the world. I have known many men who participated in that invasion and have actually heard stories from some of them about their experience all the while knowing it must be difficult for them to talk about. There are members of the stock car racing fraternity who participated in that invasion and if not the invasion in other theaters of that great War.
I watched probably 60 to 65 veterans of that battle interviewed on the different networks I watched and TO A MAN, none would accept the accolade of “hero”. More than one repeated that they were only doing their job. Several stated, flatly, that the heroes are the ones lying under the white markers in the cemetery there in France. Not meaning to dispute my elders, but I believe in my heart that every one of those men deserve the hero designation and if ever a Red Carpet walk was justified, it would be for those men when they returned to France for the observance of that important day.
I will not even begin to compare John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jimmy Stewart, and others of that era in Hollywood with the fakes and facades we have appearing on movie screens today. It is, in fact, rare that Ann and I go to movies anymore. I do, occasionally, take the youngest grandson to see something he wants to see, but even that is rare these days now that he is almost 11.
As Bill Blair, Jr. has said often, heroes for our era were Cowboys and Race Drivers, for those of us who had been introduced to races. Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Lash Larue, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, and a dozen others that rode off into the sunset at the end of each movie after prevailing against the evil of the moment. Always true to themselves and to the honor they upheld. As for our racing heroes, far too many to list by name, but their legacy is well-known to most of us here.
I was especially touched, this past week, by a post Dennis Andrews put on the site. Dennis talked about his father and what a hero his father was, and still is to him. Dennis made a point that is so many times overlooked by those seeking heroes. You really don’t have to go further than your own family most times. For me, it was not that easy. I was the first-born to a man who had just returned from three and a half years of hell fighting Japs across island after island in the Pacific. In addition to that, his life before the war had not been easy as his mother died in childbirth with him and his oldest brother spent the rest of his life telling my Daddy that it was his fault they didn’t have a mother. Add to that the Great Depression and you had a 15-year-old boy in a CCC Camp building roads for FDR when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. To say that my Daddy and I were often at odds would be an understatement. We simply did not understand each other and it was a constant battle between us. Thanks be to God that in later life we became friends and forgot the trials of my youth. When I was old enough to realize all that he had accomplished in his life, I can truly say that he became a hero to me.
Truly, to say that I find any one of today’s race drivers worthy of “hero status” would be a stretch. How can I, or any kid of an average household, find anything to really admire about a man, or woman, who stays at the track in a million dollar motor home and flies to the track from the airport in a helicopter AFTER parking their private plane, usually a jet, at the local airport. That is nothing like the drivers of the early days, through say, 1980, when they were accessible, drove pretty much what we drove, and actually worked on the cars themselves with their crew. Not much of that these days, if any at all. Nothing like the local track guys who work on their cars, race them, then pack up, most times covered in mud, dust, and grease and tow them home to work on them all week to come back next week and race again.
Oh, and have any of you seen the house that young Kyle Larson just bought in Mooresville? Seriously, there was a picture of that mansion on another site this week. Larson, what a 20-year-old kid in his first year in Cup, had bought a mansion that would house the entire starting field of the first Southern 500 and their families. How is that possible.
I think it is possible because the media and marketing experts have created a class of would-be heroes to manipulate the younger generation into believing that such wealth just falls into your lap. There seems to be no more genuineness in the world of racing. Marketing created Danica Patrick. Marketing created Carl Edwards, Marketing created Kyle Busch. True, in the cases of Edwards and Busch, there is some talent involved but the underlying truth is that these folks were marketable and that is what has happened. There is no beauty in the truth of what is there for young folks to emulate. It is just simply a fact, in my opinion.
I always like to say that Richard Petty was my hero and, in truth, he was. He was one of a handful I had growing up. Dennis Andrews reminded me that my Daddy deserves that distinction as well. Thank you, Dennis for that. My Daddy never walked a red carpet and I don’t think Wayne Andrews has either. But that is not the important thing. For being a hero to a son far outweighs the supposed honor of walking on a red rug. Just my thoughts on that.
Stock Car racing is full of heroes from the past. Just one example, mind you, just one example. Rex White is one of the most overlooked of the early stock car racers even though he won the National Championship in 1960. Being around Rex is like being around my brother as Rex makes everyone feel comfortable. But last Sunday I sat down with Rex for a few minutes to congratulate him on being selected for the 2015 class in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Rex repeated, several times, that he never thought that would happen for him. He knew he was on the list for this year but he never gave it a serious thought. Now, here he is, to be inducted in January. Quiet, reserved, honest and honorable. True hero material there. I am very proud for Rex.
You see, to me, a hero is one who does his best always, is honest to all he meets, and who is the last one to broadcast his accomplishments. A hero is not even one to accept the term when applied to him, but deflects it, usually, with accolades to someone else. That, to me, is a hero. We had many of those once upon a time. How many of the present day group are you willing to put into that category? We do, of course, still have our heroes in the military, police and emergency responders, and yes, I would include most teachers in that category too. But, overall, where are the heroes the kids will recognize? I hope and pray it is not the ones they are watching on television and in movies.