Category Archives: Sports Heroes

Tebow and Tiger: Two Trending-Up Sports Heroes

By Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals

Heroes usually don’t appear or disappear instantly.  Like buildings in an inner city, heroes are either being constructed or torn down.  People who enjoy a rising trajectory of accomplishment and fame are said to be trending upward toward heroism.  Fading heroes are said to be trending downward.  In earlier blog posts, we noted that Lady Gaga and Woodrow Wilson are examples are individuals who are trending upward and downward, respectively.

In the sports world, a couple of athletes appear to be trending favorably toward heroism.  A fascinating story is that of Tim Tebow, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, who is emerging as one of the most unexpected heroes in the National Football League.  When this current football season began, Tebow’s slow unorthodox throwing motion and frequent erratic tosses reduced him to a near-laughingstock of the NFL.  Very few people believed that he could succeed as a professional quarterback.

Tebow is somehow defying the odds.  He sat on the Broncos’ bench to begin the season and it appeared unlikely he would see any playing time.  But with the Broncos struggling to win games, fans began to chant his name, imploring Denver’s coach to give Tebow a chance.  On October 9th, late in a game in which the Broncos were trailing badly, Denver’s coach sent in Tebow.  He fell just short of singlehandedly winning the game.  Since that time, Tebow has engineered a series of unlikely, come-from-behind wins.  His powerful running ability, coupled with improved accuracy in his throwing, has endeared him to fans and teammates.  He also demonstrates quiet, inspired leadership.  Only time will tell if Tebow’s ascendancy to near-heroism continues into the NFL post-season.

Tiger Woods is also a unique story.  Earlier we blogged about Tiger’s fall from grace.   Throughout 2009 and 2010, his widely-publicized extra-marital affairs and possible sex addiction led to severe condemnations about his character.  Tiger’s leg injuries compromised his golf game and compounded his miseries.  He went from being the most dominant player in golf history to a complete non-factor in the golf world.

But over the past several weeks, Tiger Woods has become a changed man both on and off the golf course.   His knee and achillees heel are finally healthy.  On the course, Tiger is once again making spectacular shots and holing crucial putts.  He secured the winning point in the recent President’s Cup and won a golf tournament after a 2-year dry spell.  Perhaps most tellingly, Tiger appears happy and centered as a person.  Once aloof, Tiger has warmed up to the media and to his fellow competitors on the golf tour.  He has shed his inner-demons.  The fallen hero is now rising again.

Heroism is often in a state of flux.  A hero today is a goat or villain tomorrow, particularly in the sports world.  Tiger and Tebow may continue to enjoy success and savor the taste of heroic status.  Or they may plummet back to earth.  Such are the vicissitudes of heroism.  But today, in December of 2011, these two individuals are trending upward toward heroism.  We look forward to following their future trajectories.

Secretariat: The Hero Who Obliterated Triple Crown Records

Oops!  We had to remove the hero profile you’re looking for because it will soon appear in our new book Heroic Leadership: An Influence Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals, to be published by Routledge in 2013.

Our contract at Routledge required us to remove many of our profiles on our blog at this time.  But we do have other hero profiles and information about heroes on the menu bar located on the right side of this page.  Check it out!

In the mean time, please accept our apologies.  Here is more information about our new book.

You can click here to return to our HERO home page.  And thanks for visiting!

— Scott Allison and George Goethals

Tiger Woods: The Ebb and Flow of Fame and Fortune

Oops!  We had to remove the hero profile you’re looking for because it will soon appear in our new book Heroic Leadership: An Influence Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals, to be published by Routledge in 2013.

Our contract at Routledge required us to remove many of our profiles on our blog at this time.  But we do have other hero profiles and information about heroes on the menu bar located on the right side of this page.  Check it out!

In the mean time, please accept our apologies.  Here is more information about our new book.

You can click here to return to our HERO home page.  And thanks for visiting!

— Scott Allison and George Goethals

VCU and Butler: Heroes Shifting the Balance of Power in NCAA Basketball

By Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals

Almost inevitably in life one sees a clash between top dogs and underdogs, between the "haves" and the "have-nots".  NCAA basketball features such a division. There are the "Big Six" conferences that have traditionally dominated the college basketball scene, schools comprising the Big East, the Big Ten, the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac 10, and the SEC.

The remaining non-Big Six teams, representing over 80% of college basketball, are underdog schools who are given little respect and little chance of ever prevailing over their Big Six brethren.

But the past two NCAA tournaments have witnessed a shift in the balance of power, along with a slowness of the Big Six and the national media to recognize it.  More and more, the underdogs are kicking sand in the faces of the Big Six.

Last year, Butler University from the little-known Horizon League came within a whisker of defeating Duke for the national championship.  And in this year's Final Four, Butler is joined by VCU from the Colonial Athletic Association, making half the Final Four non Big Six teams who are still, somehow, viewed as underdogs.

It is very clear that the Big Six, along with the major media outlets who cover them, are fiercely resisting the notion that their era of dominance is over.  It is human nature for those in power to have blinders when it comes to acknowledging that their power has weakened.  Denial is indeed a powerful psychological force.

Heroes are people who prevail even when others don't believe in them.  VCU's fabulous journey to the Final Four was fueled, in part, by the disrespect shown them by the basketball elite who continue to overestimate the Big Six and underestimate the parity that now exists across the basketball landscape.

A lesson can be learned here:  Beware hubris.  Human history is replete with stories of powerful entities whose demise was caused, in part, by their inability to recognize when their power has eroded.  Butler's near-miss last year should have put a dent in the massive hubris on display among NCAA basketball media moguls.  But it didn't.

Either Butler or VCU has to win the national championship for the Big Six to finally admit that they aren't so big anymore.  As we work in the city of Richmond, we're rooting for VCU.

Go Rams!

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Do you have a hero that you would like us to profile?  If so, please contact Scott Allison at sallison@richmond.edu.

Warren Spahn: The Greatest Left Hander Ever

Oops!  We had to remove the hero profile you’re looking for because it will soon appear in our new book Heroic Leadership: An Influence Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals, to be published by Routledge in 2013.

Our contract at Routledge required us to remove many of our profiles on our blog at this time.  But we do have other hero profiles and information about heroes on the menu bar located on the right side of this page.  Check it out!

In the mean time, please accept our apologies.  Here is more information about our new book.

You can click here to return to our HERO home page.  And thanks for visiting!

— Scott Allison and George Goethals

Althea Gibson: Barrier Breaker and Way Paver

Oops!  We had to remove the hero profile you’re looking for because it will soon appear in our new book Heroic Leadership: An Influence Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals, to be published by Routledge in 2013.

Our contract at Routledge required us to remove many of our profiles on our blog at this time.  But we do have other hero profiles and information about heroes on the menu bar located on the right side of this page.  Check it out!

In the mean time, please accept our apologies.  Here is more information about our new book.

You can click here to return to our HERO home page.  And thanks for visiting!

— Scott Allison and George Goethals