I believe the biggest problem is that the media will jump at opportunities to publicize the athletes thatare in the public light for the wrong reasons. The recent interest in Tiger Woods and his affairs would be an example. If you want to find information about the super stars who are doing good works you have to dig a little deeper to find them. I would start with theiri teams home page or even the athletes home page, there are usually links to their charity works and other things there.
Very recently, one of the greats of the NFL, Merlin Olson, a Hall of Famer, died at age 69. Olson was loved by football fans and TV viewers of all kinds. After playing for the NFL, Olson had parts in The Little House on the Prairie, and a starring role in Father Murphy. His wholesome and congenial nature made him a favorite of the actors with whom he worked. With a personal life that was exemplary, Olson may not have been a "hero,"--a word that has been corrupted nowadays, anyway-- but he certainly was a good person, and one that youngsters could emulate.
There seems to be a necessity for myth in man, and athletes provide many people such a mythological type as they are superior physically and achieve feats beyond the ability of the ordinary. Perhaps the best example of what has been perceived as almost supra-natural power is the "hang time" of the great basketball player, Michael Jordan. This NBA star seemed to fly through the air, sending thrills into the hearts of his fans. For those moments that they watched Jordan, they, too, flew above the mundane existence of their lives. Maybe, then, this is the "heroic" gift that athletes give as they transport their fans to another dimension, that of mythical perfection.
I assume you question is close to your thesis, and that is what you are trying to prove in your essay. Here's a couple of points to help you do that:
- For every one sports star who is a publicity hound and egotistical, etc., there are dozens or hundreds who are not. Offensive linemen in the NFL, for instance, make fantastic salaries and never seek the spotlight. For every one athlete that is interviewed and spouts cliches every other sentence, there's a team full of people who will play their whole careers and never even be interviewed a single time. There are planty of athletes around who are well-adjusted, humble people.
- Athletes are heroes if the fans see them as such. Your definition of a hero doesn't have to deal with the spotless few who are flawless heroes, if you can find any. Your definition of hero can be about who fans look up to, who sells the most uniform jerseys, etc. They are heroes whether everyone likes it or not. You can use a broad definition of hero if you need to.
If you decide to take on the positive aspect of this essay--that today's athletes still exhibit heroic traits and are not publicity mongrels--good luck to you. In past generations, it would have probably been easier to single out sports heroes: Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Bill Bradley, Roger Staubach--all were heroes to their fans, and they lived exemplary lives on and off the field. No doubt you will be able to find a few examples of today's athletes as heroes, but even the high profiles stars of today and recent years--such as Tiger Woods and Mark McGwire--have come tumbling back to earth with scandals of their own. I might start with someone like the late Pat Tillman, the NFL star who quit the big money and was killed after volunteering for active military duty in Iraq.
We cannot write an essay for you, but perhaps we can help with ideas.
First of all, it is impossible to say that all sports heroes are one way or the other. There are so many different people that you could call sports heroes that you cannot generalize about them.
Second, just because someone does not pursue publicity does not mean they are a hero. Tiger Woods tried to keep his private life out of the public eye, but it turned out he was not being a hero.
Finally, I suppose you could argue that sports stars are still heroes because of what they do in competition. Sports fans love to see players compete, regardless of what the players are like as people. So the athletes give us the thrill of watching them and you could argue that makes them heroes.
It seems to be more difficult to see many sports stars as heroes and not publicity-hungry mongrels. It is painful to see many players forget about the love of game and their fans and turn to things such as asking for more than the $120 million contract they received, abusing the people that they "love" and make scenes during interviews and public appearances. While this is an unfortunate and somewhat common sight in today's sports, there are still many players who eat, sleep, and breathe the sport they play in. Andrew Luck, the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, is a prime example of this. He is still very young, but he is exceptionally talented and knows what he is doing. He also works very, very hard 7 days a week to make myself and his team the best they can be. He is also a kind person with a good heart, and he has great sportsmanship in both victory and defeat.
Hope this helps!