I realise that the subject of Heroes was discussed in our last blog, but Life – as it seems to have a habit of doing when an idea is in the ether – has thrown up a set of circumstances that has led me to want to cover similar ground to that which one of my co-writers wandered on last week.
Last Monday saw the funeral of the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. A certain News channel – I say “certain” not to avoid naming names but simply because I don’t know which one it was – showed live footage of his funeral. So far, so honourable.
I know this because one of my Friends happened to be standing in line at the bank – Barclays if it makes any difference (see, I do have the Balls to name names) – at the time it was on.
However, this live – I say that again, live – footage of the funeral of “the greatest Irish poet since Yeats” (not my words) was interrupted on this particular News channel to show live footage of another ‘breaking news’ story. Cut to Gareth Bale playing kick-ups on the pitch at the Bernabéu. (That’s Real Madrid’s home stadium for those who don’t follow sportsball.)
Now I’m not here to discuss the current financial culture of the world of professional football – that has been talked about more than enough over the past couple of weeks. (Although, in passing, it might be interesting to learn that the small Youth Charity for which I work could run for around three and a half years on the same amount of money that Gareth Bale earns in a single week.)
Nor am I aiming criticism at the News channel who decided that footage of Gareth Bale playing kick-ups was more important than Seamus Heaney’s funeral. To be fair on them, I suspect that the majority of the all important 18-35 year old demographic – of which I am a card carrying member before you accuse me of being an old fart – know (and care?) far more about Gareth Bale than they do about Seamus Heaney.
But it does raise the question of ‘where are the modern heroes?’. If we look at the tale I have just told then it would suggest that, to those who control our daily dose of News at least, a twenty-four year old who kicks an inflated pig’s bladder into a net is far more deserving of our idolisation than a recently deceased former Nobel Prize for Literature winner.
I realise this sounds like an anti-football rant, and I’ll be honest and admit that it probably is. I accept the fact that football and poetry achieve similar outcomes in that they are both escapist exercises which provide entertainment and joy to many people. I’m not even trying to claim that Seamus Heaney is a hero – he certainly isn’t one of my select few of personal heroes (a list which I won’t publish here as they are just that, personal).
But I find it easier to accept that Seamus Heaney could be a hero to many as much of his poetry provided escapism during a horrible period of time for many people – the Irish ‘Troubles’. His fellow Irish writer Colm Tóibín eulogised that “In a time of burnings and bombings Heaney used poetry to offer an alternative world”. Does playing football for £15.6m a year really deserve to trump that?
Not only that, but Seamus Heaney had just died whereas Gareth Bale had merely moved jobs.
As I say, I’m not trying to label either of these men as heroes; I just thought the priorities of the media seemed skewed in this instance. But this train of thought added fuel to the flame in my mind that can’t help but think we are lacking in any recognisable heroes for the modern age.
And, more importantly, what does it mean to be a hero in 2013?