The Penalty Box: Sports Heroes Are Not Real Heroes

September 13, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.

By Roger Grossman

When you are in the “word” business, be it written or spoken, words are the tools of your trade.
I tell people all the time “words matter…words have power”. I challenge them to use the right words and the right kinds of words because what you say and how you say it has a monumental effect on the people who consume your words.
Unfortunately in 2023, there are a lot of people who butcher words by using the wrong words in the wrong context, and with social media being so prominent, that lack of a mastery of language is out there for a lot of people to see.
We use the word “hero” a lot.
In the world of sports, we use it in more than half of the games, matches and meets we watch.
I do it too, by the way. In a close game that I am broadcasting, I will say “the hero of this game has yet to be identified” or something to that affect.
I need to include another word in that scenario—a word that qualifies what we are really talking about.
I should call that person a “sports hero”.
Why is this important?
Sports heroes are the people who make the biggest contribution in a sporting event. They score the most points or pitch great or in some way, shape or form perform in an extraordinary way.
You get that, right?
But to call them ‘heroes’ is an incorrect use of that term. They are not ‘heroes’, they are ‘sports heroes’.
You may roll your eyes and wonder what the difference is.
I was reminded of the difference on Monday.
It was Patriots Day in the United States—September 11. The day when hijacked planes were flown into buildings and the blood of innocent Americans was spilled out here on our own soil.
There were a lot of heroes that day. I am talking about real heroes—people who were put into extraordinary circumstances and rose to them and saved untold numbers of lives in the process.
As I spent Monday afternoon watching the various shows about that day on the History Channel, I found myself in the middle of special programming about the four flights that were taken over by America-hating terrorists. The point at which I started watching was as the program turned its attention toward Flight 93.
That’s the flight that eventually crashed in western Pennsylvania.
It’s also the only flight where the passengers fought back.
The people on that plane had the ‘advantage’ of knowing what had been happening at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the hours before. They were able to call their friends and families, and they were debriefed on what the hijackers had already done, and it took no imagination for them to figure out what the people who had killed their pilots and were flying their plane were planning to do.
They gathered in the back of the plane, hatched out a plan to take back control of the cockpit and then executed it.
They breached the door, and a struggle ensued. It was clear to those evil men in the pilots’ seats that they were losing the fight for control of the airplane, and cockpit recordings reveal that they started to contemplate their next move, because they weren’t going to make it back to the US Capitol building to crash the plane there.
Ultimately, we know that the passengers forced the hijackers to crash the plane into a vacant field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Had they not acted and forced the hand of their captors, how many more people would have died in our nation’s capital? Those people lost their lives, but they saved many, many others.
They, my friends, are heroes.
So are the first responders who entered the towers that day when everyone was trying to get out.
So were the civilians who carried those who couldn’t walk down the stairs on their own.
See the difference?
There is no way to put a value on what those people did—for all of us—that day.
We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
And when you look at it from that perspective, getting the big hit in a playoff baseball game or something that might make us attach the name “hero” to them just isn’t right.
They are sports heroes.
Never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.

When you are in the “word” business, be it written or spoken, words are the tools of your trade.
I tell people all the time “words matter…words have power”. I challenge them to use the right words and the right kinds of words because what you say and how you say it has a monumental effect on the people who consume your words.
Unfortunately in 2023, there are a lot of people who butcher words by using the wrong words in the wrong context, and with social media being so prominent, that lack of a mastery of language is out there for a lot of people to see.
We use the word “hero” a lot.
In the world of sports, we use it in more than half of the games, matches and meets we watch.
I do it too, by the way. In a close game that I am broadcasting, I will say “the hero of this game has yet to be identified” or something to that affect.
I need to include another word in that scenario—a word that qualifies what we are really talking about.
I should call that person a “sports hero”.
Why is this important?
Sports heroes are the people who make the biggest contribution in a sporting event. They score the most points or pitch great or in some way, shape or form perform in an extraordinary way.
You get that, right?
But to call them ‘heroes’ is an incorrect use of that term. They are not ‘heroes’, they are ‘sports heroes’.
You may roll your eyes and wonder what the difference is.
I was reminded of the difference on Monday.
It was Patriots Day in the United States—September 11. The day when hijacked planes were flown into buildings and the blood of innocent Americans was spilled out here on our own soil.
There were a lot of heroes that day. I am talking about real heroes—people who were put into extraordinary circumstances and rose to them and saved untold numbers of lives in the process.
As I spent Monday afternoon watching the various shows about that day on the History Channel, I found myself in the middle of special programming about the four flights that were taken over by America-hating terrorists. The point at which I started watching was as the program turned its attention toward Flight 93.
That’s the flight that eventually crashed in western Pennsylvania.
It’s also the only flight where the passengers fought back.
The people on that plane had the ‘advantage’ of knowing what had been happening at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the hours before. They were able to call their friends and families, and they were debriefed on what the hijackers had already done, and it took no imagination for them to figure out what the people who had killed their pilots and were flying their plane were planning to do.
They gathered in the back of the plane, hatched out a plan to take back control of the cockpit and then executed it.
They breached the door, and a struggle ensued. It was clear to those evil men in the pilots’ seats that they were losing the fight for control of the airplane, and cockpit recordings reveal that they started to contemplate their next move, because they weren’t going to make it back to the US Capitol building to crash the plane there.
Ultimately, we know that the passengers forced the hijackers to crash the plane into a vacant field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Had they not acted and forced the hand of their captors, how many more people would have died in our nation’s capital? Those people lost their lives, but they saved many, many others.
They, my friends, are heroes.
So are the first responders who entered the towers that day when everyone was trying to get out.
So were the civilians who carried those who couldn’t walk down the stairs on their own.
See the difference?
There is no way to put a value on what those people did—for all of us—that day.
We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
And when you look at it from that perspective, getting the big hit in a playoff baseball game or something that might make us attach the name “hero” to them just isn’t right.
They are sports heroes.
Never forget what happened on September 11, 2001.

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