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Sports Heroes and Celebrities

Steven Jackson


The terms hero and celebrity have increasingly become used interchangeably, but they are fundamentally different. According to Daniel Boorstin, “ The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness … The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero is a big man [ sic ]; the celebrity is a big name” (1992: 57, 61). Thus, there are some clear distinctions between the two concepts and the challenge is to ascertain how and why they have become conflated. First, we must examine the meaning, significance and types of heroes and why sport remains such an important site for their identification and development. In turn, we need to understand how changes in wider society have tended to shift attention, status, and rewards from heroes to celebrities. Heroes/heroines have existed throughout human history. From ancient Greece and Rome through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the twenty-first century, societies and cultures have created, defined, bestowed, and otherwise recognized what is known as a hero ( Klapp 1949 ). In Browne's (1990) view, heroes highlight the potential and possibility of humans by expanding and/or conquering the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and altruistic limits of human beings. And while there are many cultural arenas in which ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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