We live in an era where we over-value sports figures. Nowhere has this become more obvious than with the erecting of bronze statues. The practice of immortalizing players, owners, coaches, and broadcasters has become quite popular with all of the new stadiums that have been built over the last 20 years. The bronze statue is now viewed as the ultimate honour for a sports figure, even more honoured than the retiring of one's number, or enshrining a person into that team's hall of fame. However, the time has come to look into that practice and question it.
There are many examples of misplaced bronze statues. The Detroit Tigers feature a bronze statue of player Ty Cobb at Comerica Park, who's past arguably involves a murder and certainly is filled with his own racism. This summer, the Pennsylvania State University was forced under public pressure to remove the bronze statue of football coach Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, after he allegedly knew of the heinous crimes perpetrated by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The Cleveland Indians are advertising a future bronze statue for former Indian player Jim Thome at Progressive Field, even though he has seen numerous teams since his tenure in Cleveland, and has not even retired yet. Even the Los Angeles Lakers announced that they would be erecting a bronze statue of center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, after years of Kareem complaining that he should have one outside of the Staples Center.
All of these instances bring into question the practice of erecting bronze statues. However, in Vancouver, British Columbia the best example of an athlete deserving of his bronze statue exists. Outside of B.C. Place Stadium, home of the B.C. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps, stands the bronze statue (four actually) of Terry Fox.
For those who don't know, Terry Fox was not a professional athlete ... he never got the chance to be one. However, Terry was arguably the greatest athlete that Canada has ever seen. Terry Fox ran the equivalent of a marathon every day for 143 straight days, on one leg, with cancer coursing through his body and lungs.
Terry was a young man who lost his leg to cancer. He was inspired to run across Canada in 1980 to raise money and awareness for cancer research. On April 12, he dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John's, Newfoundland, and began his journey. Amid apathy and anger, Terry Fox trekked on with a pure vision of what he could bring, refusing product endorsements and not allowing any corporate strings to be attached to his mission. Just as his Marathon of Hope was gaining unprecedented coverage and energy, Terry Fox had to stop his mission in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He discovered that he had cancer in his lungs. His Marathon of Hope lasted 143 days, and he traveled over 3,300 miles. Terry died in June of 1981, having never completed the Marathon of Hope.
Terry Fox became a national hero, and inspiration for all. Over 30 years later, millions of Canadians continue the Marathon of Hope, running every September in the Terry Fox Run, which raises millions of dollars for cancer research. Many argue that he is the greatest Canadian ever.
There are many monuments for Terry Fox around Canada, however the bronze statues in Terry Fox Plaza, in front of B.C. Place Stadium, are the most closely linked to professional sports.
Make no mistake, there are many sports figures honoured by the bronze statues around Canada and the United States who have done great things both on and off the field. However, this September, when millions of dollars will once again be raised for Cancer research in the name of a selfless young man, we can look at many of the bronze statues and say that they just don't stack up to the man that was ... Terry Fox.