By WILL GRAVES
Scripps Howard News Service
May 31, 2005
Tiger Woods in fatigues instead of a red polo?
Derek Jeter dive-bombing instead of diving in the hole?
Ben Roethlisberger calling out the position of his infantry unit instead of plays at the line of scrimmage?
It used to happen. A lot. Ted Williams, Rocky Bleier, Pat Tillman and plenty of guys you've never heard of sacrificed the prime of their athletic careers if not their lives to serve in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
Do you think it would happen today?
If it came to the kind of draft where the players don't go out and shake hands with the commissioner, but instead become commissioned soldiers in a war they didn't start but pray they get to finish, would the men we so effortlessly call "warriors" go eagerly and without complaint? Would you?
"Hero" is a word we throw at our athletes like rice at a wedding reception.
Play hurt? You're a hero.
Make the game-winning shot?
Cue the band and let us clear our throat for the "holy hosannas."
Didn't we promise after that Tuesday morning in September a few years ago to be more muted, to remember who the real heroes are? To not believe the hype and start believing in each other instead?
Well, we forgot.
Hey, it happens. Life moves on.
It's easy to get lost in the mini-melodramas that surround us on a daily basis. The players do.
Our freedom is sometimes a blessing and a curse. It's because of our freedom that, around here, we can obsess over the state of the Florida football and wonder why the Dolphins would ever let Ricky Williams step another foot into their locker room.
It's that same freedom that inadvertently allows the men and women who provide it to fade into the background like stars in a clear blue sky.
It's not wrong, exactly. The truth is, it's OK to get worked up over the little things. It's part of what makes us who we are.
Ted Williams used to joke that once you've been shot down over enemy lines, standing in the batter's box with the game on the line in the ninth inning didn't seem such a big deal.
It's not. But the fact that there are people who fixate over that ninth-inning at-bat as they do over our nation's foreign policy is a big deal.
That's the freedom Ted Williams so willingly and valiantly defended.
If you have a minute between your round of golf or backyard barbeque on Monday, pay tribute to those who gave and all those who are still giving so we can watch "SportsCenter" instead of CNN.
The National Moment of Remembrance is set for Monday afternoon. There are plenty of young men and women - some of them pretty good athletes in their own right - who are out there making sure the Indy 500 and the Yankees and Red Sox are the highlights of our Memorial Day weekend.
But just take a minute, don't take all day. There are games to watch and "heroes" to anoint.
It's OK. The real ones want you to.