On a rather serendipitous late night/early morning back on the 14th of March 2004, I managed to win a guitar on a US based eBay auction and then went to bed happy as Chris Benoit won the Heavyweight title in the main event at Wrestlemania 20.
I’d been a fan of wrestling for some time and the advent of said auction site had allowed me to collect numerous WWF PPV events on VHS (oh how times and technology change). Mr. Benoit was my second favourite wrestler after his fellow Canadian, Bret Hart. Both men had dedicated their whole lives to being the best at their craft and though I’m loathed to use the term hero in any sporting sense, Benoit was a bit of a hero of mine.
By the time the news of his death broke in June of 2007 I’d stopped watching wrestling and moved on to other preoccupations.
Benoit had committed suicide.
In the days leading up to killing himself, Mr. Benoit had killed his 7-year old son and his wife.
He is still my second favourite wrestler. I can still watch his matches, being able to dispassionately, dissociate the performance of the man in the ring with who the man was in his private life.
I suspect most others can be like that. When asked “who are your heroes?” we tend not to fixate on what people are or might have been like behind closed doors and focus solely on what they contributed to society, though granted few have such heinous behaviour as murder as a skeleton in their closet.
And in this time of hyper-partisanship the need to elevate people far above their station in life, usually and simply because they aren’t someone else deemed terrible, can lead to these kinds of moral quandaries.
Having heroes in politics is always going to be tricky but in just the past fortnight we’ve had now-former governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, a man elevated to god-like status for simply not being pussy-grabber-in-chief Donald Trump, #MeToo’d out of office and made persona non grata amongst the very set that elevated him to such preposterous levels in the first place.
Joe Biden, a man with nothing to show for decades in politics except for Alzheimer’s, fawned over by certain sections the world over as the man who toppled the bad Orange man has now, in the space of one week of ineptitude, turned Afghanistan back into the cesspit of religious zealotry is was really always destined to return to.
Within the beer community; a bubble even more concentrated than wrestling and on a far smaller scale than geo-political warfare, you had a female firebrand who ruled over a highly regarded brewery in the North West of England, who was known and actively cheered on for her rants at anyone who had the misfortune to “cross her” on Twitter, as she struck blow after drunken, vitriolic blow against some supposed beery patriarchy, when all along she was actively ignoring any complaints of impropriety within her own organisation.
This happened at quite a few other breweries in the UK and USA. Within the bubble, an Ouroboros of egos, with an over-inflated opinions of their own self worth, raised to the echelons of demagoguery. That the chosen 5 who can make a living from writing about beer (maybe 4, one seems to actually only talk about beer), have their opinions sought and are only to happy to let you know just what they think is right and correct, pure and moral and how things should be, even if that also means, in one such case, giving a platform to a rotund misogynist with a criminal conviction for violence and property damage.
In the back catalogue of any normal human life, someone, somewhere will find something objectionable.
It’s is simply a better policy to not appoint anyone as a moral arbiter or a hero of any kind of stripe within any kind of strata of life or employment because those people too, will have their morals and their code soon found to be a bad joke and all will be dropped at the first sign of trouble.
Most of the time it is just best not to choose at all, or at least keep it private.