|Good grief! Charlie Brown's my hero|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
I prefer that my sports heroes be either dead or fictional. There is less chance of reading a story that they were just picked up for soliciting a prostitute that way.
My sports hero is Charlie Brown.
True, he manages a team so bad its best player is a beagle. True, he once lost 40-0 to an expansion team. True, he always falls for Lucy's "I'll hold the ball and you come running up and kick it" routine.
I don't care. Charlie Brown is my hero because he loves sports so much he takes the mound during a snowstorm because the calendar says it's time for spring training. He loves sports so much his head once broke out in a rash like the seams on a baseball. He loves sports so much he bought out a store's entire inventory of bubblegum cards to get one of his favorite player, Joe Schlabotnik (he didn't).
And whenever Joe Schlabotnik gets sent to the lowest of the minor leagues, Charlie Brown doesn't care. He sticks by his hero, rooting for him no matter his batting average, no matter his league. He even hands him a ball to sign the night Joe is fired as manager for calling a squeeze bunt with the bases empty. "Try not to cry on the ball, Joe," Charlie Brown says, "it makes the ink run."
Charlie Brown loves sports, and he asks nothing from them other than the chance to participate. He knows what sports are really about. Pain, failure and patience, but most of all, eternal hope. Hope that one day Joe Schlabotnik will hit .300, hope that Charlie Brown will hit a home run when that little red-haired girl is watching and hope that Lucy won't yank away the football and he'll be able to kick it straight to the moon.
I know I can rely on Charlie Brown to represent what is best in sports.
And I can trust that he won't ever be named in a paternity suit.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.