The vast majority of our sporting heroes -- and come to think of it, almost all the heroes we hold dear -- will let us down. They are good at one thing: the sport they become famous for.
But they fail to rise to such mythic heights in their day-to-day lives. It turns out that even if they can rip homers over the Green Monster or score the Stanley Cup-winning goal with a flying leap that even Hollywood wouldn't try to script, they are, in the end only flawed humans. They drink too much. They take drugs. They're dishonest in business and callous to their friends and family. They kick the dog. Of course, we hold these truths to be self-evident. But damn if it isn't cool when one of your heroes DOES turn out to be worth all the adulation?
When I was a kid, growing up on the North Shore of Boston, this joke that made the rounds: Guy dies and goes to heaven. He meets Saint Peter and sees that right behind the pearly gates there's a hockey rink. There's one dude skating around the rink. He's wearing a Bruins jersey with a No. 4 on it. The guy asks St. Peter who the skater is.
Oh, that's God, he thinks he's Bobby Orr.
But the fact that I've remembered that joke for the past 40 years attests to how revered Mr. Robert Gordon Orr was in Boston in the 1970s.
So, imagine my surprise and great pleasure to read this Boston Globe article, published on Orr's 65th birthday, that attests to an even greater and more quiet heroism than even his amazing hockey career could provide. Sure, the writer might be gilding the lily a bit, but for my part, I'll choose to believe that every word is gospel and that the big skater in the sky is still spinning shifts in the No. 4 sweater. And just as I did as I skated around the pond at the Pump House, today, I'll envision the grace of Bobby Orr as I go through the rest of my day.