By Stephen J. Dubner

As a boy, Stephen J. Dubner's hero used to be Franco Harris, the famed and mysterious working again for the Pittsburgh Steelers. whilst Dubner's father died, he turned obsessed—he dreamed of his hero each evening; he signed his university papers "Franco Dubner." although they by no means met, it used to be Franco Harris who shepherded Dubner via a fatherless boyhood. Years later, Dubner trips to fulfill his hero, definite that Harris will include him. And he's . . . good, incorrect. advised with the grit of a journalist and the grace of a memoirist, Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper is a wide ranging, heartbreaking, and sometimes funny tale of miraculous advancements. it's also a gleaming meditation at the nature of hero worship—which, like faith and love, tells us as a lot approximately ourselves as concerning the item of our wish.

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My mother rode in the back of the ambulance, reciting the Rosary. At the hospital, he first appeared to be dead but then showed signs of life and eventually stabilized. My mother explained all this the morning after in a tone of grim exhaustion. It was a miracle that he’d survived, she told us. He was going to be all right, she told us. He was going to be home by Christmas, she told us. The older kids visited him but I didn’t. There was no use missing school, my mother said, since he’d be home soon.

It’s all right, I thought, if he doesn’t come home until after Christmas. But just . . fix the mistake! The next day I watched the game alone. I don’t remember where Beth and Dave and my mother were. This time the game was in Oakland. ” I was horrified; I hoped Franco hadn’t seen it. He’d been injured all year, and the announcers said he still wasn’t 100 percent. I saw him hobbling around 40 Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper on the sideline like an animal who’d just sprung his leg from a trap. Someone threw a chocolate ice-cream cone from the stands, and it hit one of the Steelers in the back of the head.

Franco was humble but he wasn’t meek. I was meek but not humble. Humility comes from confidence; meekness comes from a lack of it. Meekness is a frightened dog on a leash: If it weren’t for this leash, he snarls, I’d tear you apart. Franco didn’t wear a leash. “You’ve got to be strong to stand as an individual,” he told one reporter. “It’s like a little poem which is very hip—a Muslim named Bama sings it on his album. ” I studied his words and watched his deeds. Other ballplayers talked tough all the time, as if you had to be a he-man to be a man.

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