People are more than just image

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

We watch them on TV. We see them on the football field or the basketball court or the baseball diamond. We listen to them sing their hearts out on stage.

Society certainly elevates its celebrities, arguably to an almost unhealthy level. The world lost several icons in recent weeks.

From Charlie’s Angel star Farrah Fawcett to salesman extraordinaire Billy Mays to Tonight Show co-host Ed McMahon, all had a place in modern pop culture.

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But two other deaths — music legend Michael Jackson and retired NFL football player Steve McNair — show that the men and women whom some come dangerously close to worshipping are far more than just their public image.

Each and every one is truly as human as all of us, with the same strengths and flaws and ability to make good decisions and bad.

Nothing epitomizes this dichotomy between public perception and reality more than the deaths of Jackson and McNair.

Jackson has an undeniable place in music history, firmly cemented as one of the most influential and successful recording artists of all time. Some view him as a legendary performer who changed their lives with his music.

But for many people, he will always be the eccentric — even downright crazy — celebrity who lived in a fantasy land, treated his own children strangely and who was surrounded by the stigma of multiple allegations of sexual abuse and the heinousness that should be attached to that crime.

The situation is different but the same dichotomy goes for McNair.

To some he was a selfless gladiator on the football field, a role model to millions of youth and a giving soul who reached out to the community.

Others will say that he was an adulterer who gave no thought to the harm his actions would cause his family and those around him.

And the truth of both men likely lies in the middle. They were in some ways all these things and none at the same time.

No one is perfect and we are all more than we sometimes show in public.

Both the good and the bad of someone’s character should be considered part of someone’s legacy, with neither overshadowing the other. We shouldn’t judge either of these men too harshly. That can be left to a higher power.

On the stage or on the field, Steve McNair and Michael Jackson were only human. Just like the rest of us.