What Happened to Yesterday’s Hometown Heroes?

Each morning my local county newspaper shows up late. Speaking with the delivery man and calling the office hasn’t changed things. So, rather than canceling the 20,089 daily circulation paper I continue reading the local news with my coffee … a day late. And I love to read it cover-to-cover. Yet, lately I’m finding I’m growing frustrated with the content. I see some of our older hometown heroes growing weak. But, not our kids.

It’s Saturday, and as I read Friday’s sports on page B-1, I see three brawny boys wearing “Reynolds Wrestling 600 Wins” t-shirts hoisting the western Pennsylvania District 10 AA Dual Meet Championship trophy over their heads. Reynolds is a local perennial small school wrestling powerhouse. Above them are pictures of 112-pound and 140-pound boys locked in mortal holds.

On page B-3 there are four similar pictures: one shows 125-pound Reynolds Raider Robbie Miller turning Greenville’s Doug Richmond on his back with the referee lying next to the boys waiting to call the pin. Richmond must have bloodied Miller’s nose earlier in the match because Miller has cotton in his nose. And Richmond isn’t giving up even though he’s on his back. His back is bridged and he’s jamming his palm under Miller’s chin. Hometown heroes, these boys. Great stuff!

And then I turn back to page B-1 to read a story about the Pittsburgh Penguins. Another hometown hero, Mario Lemieux, and his Penguin co-owner partners are wrestling with Pennsylvania’s governor, Pittsburgh’s mayor and Allegheny County’s executive to get a new arena for their team. The paper reports that Lemieux and company leave the negotiations—they walk off the mat—because they don’t want to share parking and other revenues.

But wait, my instincts tell me there’s something wrong with this picture. Why are Lemieux and friends wrestling with the referees? Why are they turning to government for a $290 million deal? Aren’t the governor and his team elected to create and enforce laws rather than wrestle with businesses over how much money to grant them? And what’s happened to Lemieux? I don’t ever remember a champion asking a referee to hand him a win or a Stanley Cup, let alone huge financial favors.

Hmmm…even though he was on his back with the referee lying just inches away, Greenville’s Doug Richmond wasn’t asking the referee for help. He was fighting for the win.

And then I turn to the business page on B-5 to read a story titled “Dairy Queen Gets Grant to Upgrade Equipment.” Once again Pennsylvania’s governor is featured. This time his office announces that the governor is giving a local DQ franchise $7,500 to install high-efficiency refrigeration equipment. The story notes that the governor has handed out $2.8 million in similar equipment grants to other small businesses since July 2004.

What is going on with America’s business owners? Are they starting out tough as youngsters but growing up soft—turning to government to solve their problems with money that doesn’t belong to them? And how do they learn to become weak? Do they read about hometown heroes gone soft in America’s sports and business pages? There’s a lot of talk today about athletes having a responsibility to be role models. What’s happened to Lemieux and Pittsburgh’s young mayor? The mayor was a college football player not too long ago. Are these men role models for future business owners?

I’ve got to shake off this mental softness that’s seeping into my mind. Back to page B-3 for me. I’m cheering on young Robbie Miller and Doug Richmond. Grow up strong guys. If you go into business, remember your picture on page B-3. Frame it. Hang it in your bedrooms. Hang it in your dorm rooms. Hang it in your offices. Remember, the referee is just a referee. Don’t ask him for help. Even though I’m reading about you a day late, you guys are my hometown heroes today.

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Lee Wishing, an adjunct scholar wtih the Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org), is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values (www.visandvals.org) at Grove City College. Contact him at [email protected].