The effective impact upon us of men of honor, rectitude and goodwill is to arouse kindred impulses within us. We begin to detect in ourselves undeveloped capacities. The touch of the heroic awakens in us the slumbering hero. Fellowship with a true servant of mankind calls into action our latent impulses to minister.
It's really impossible for athletes to grow up. On the one hand, you're a child, still playing a game. But on the other hand, you're a superhuman hero that everyone dreams of being. No wonder we have such a hard time understanding who we are.
It's no wonder that our priorities got screwed up. Just because a person can throw a ball harder or hit it further than most ordinary human beings, he is placed on a pedestal at an early age. I don't think there is anything wrong with admiring an exceptionally skilled person, but the hero-worship we shower on athletes goes beyond that. This is a part of the tribal influence handed down by our ancestors. Man has always been lionized for his physical prowess. An Indian brave did not have to pass a math quiz in order to become a chief, he just had to tear the ass off some bear. And the twelve labours of Hercules did not include a Regents' exam. Society has tended to find its heroes in the most obvious arenas, and I don't regard that as a healthy thing. We should find our heroes in the bathroom mirror each and every morning.
A rational process is a moral process. You may make an error at any step of it, with nothing to protect you but your own severity, or you may try to cheat, to fake the evidence and evade the effort of the quest - but if devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.