Does athletics provide us with role models?
Some haunting local news this past weekend reminded us that sports undeniably gives us figures to look up to and admire: people like Richard Becher.
As turmoil surrounds the NFL because of the depraved behavior of a few privileged players, it is still possible to find heroism in the everyday men and women who coach in the evening and on the weekends, teaching their sons and daughters and the children of their neighbors.
Becher, 50, of Holbrook, was one such hero. He died Saturday after being hit in the head by a line drive while pitching batting practice to his 12-year-old son's baseball team. Becher was described by those who knew him as a man utterly devoted to family and community, someone always willing to help out, and someone who knew that the important thing for the ballplayers was having fun.
Most of us never had heard of Becher, and never would have if not for this tragic accident. He was throwing to young batters from behind a protective cage, and the sheer unlikelihood of everything going so wrong at the same time -- from his head being unprotected to the velocity of the ball to where it hit him -- is staggering.
He owned a sheet-metal installation company. He coached youth basketball, in addition to baseball, and helped run two leagues.
Maybe Charles Barkley, as he so famously said when he was playing pro basketball, wasn't a role model. Many professional athletes aren't.
But the world is full of everyday heroes. We'd be wise to emulate and celebrate a man like Becher, who will be missed by his family, the youngsters he helped and the entire community.