Professional Athletes Aren’t Heroes. THIS is a #Realhero

My friend and training partner “Mzungu” posted the following message on facebook this morning:

If you want a hero, stop looking for them in professional athletes. They live in your neighborhood. They are your friends, teachers, your triathlon teammates. I am proud to count Brent as a friend as he donates his kidney to a friend in need.

This morning, as many of us were still tweeting on the #Doprah hashtag about Lance Armstrong’s confession interview, Brent was preparing for surgery in which one of his kidneys would be removed and donated to a close friend, Mary, who has been suffering from kidney disease for 13 years and in complete kidney failure since 2011. More here.

Brent and Mary prior to surgery. As of this posting, both surgeries went well and they're recovering.

Brent and Mary prior to surgery. As of this posting, both surgeries went well and they’re recovering.

Brent is one of my training partners, too. Well, sort of. He runs and swims much faster than I do, and I’m pretty sure he’s faster on the bike. He’s the cross-country, boys’ lacrosse,  and swim coach at our local high school, an all-around nice guy and amazing athlete. He gets up to run at 5:30, teaches Health and Phys Ed all day and coaches after school. I’ll often see him coaching at the pool late into the evening. He always has a smile and a positive attitude. One time I was out running on the trail and saw him leading his (huge!) cross-country team on a training run, going in the opposite direction. He said “hi” as we passed each other and then made sure his runners moved to the side so I could pass. He didn’t yell at them, but simply said “stay right!” using an authoritative tone that said “get the hell out of her way!” He’s humble, too. He only told our group last week that he was donating a kidney, so they’d understand why he would be missing a few workouts.

Mzungu’s hero comment resonated with me because he’s right. We need to stop worshipping celebrities and putting professional athletes on pedestals. Sure, there are plenty of good professional guys and gals who work hard and earn their titles legitimately, but at the end of the day, that’s their job. They do no more (and perhaps less) than a guy like Brent who’s working full time while training for an Ironman and then makes the selfless decision to help another human being simply because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s a real hero. This is the person we should look up to, admire, tell our kids about, and consider our role model. It’s time to put an end to the trending of #Doprah and #LieStrong, titillating though they are, and start using #realhero. I hope you’ll join me. And of course please send prayers, thoughts, good vibes, whatever feels right to you, to Brent and Mary as they recover.

And while we’re on the subject of heroes and heroic deeds, let’s start thinking about what we can do, such as joining Kyle’s Krusade to help a 6 year old with cancer. This is a virtual 5k, 10K or half marathon; simply donate $10 per distance you plan to run. You can even win prizes, although I think just the sense of helping out is reward enough.

Do you know a #realhero?

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #realhero on Twitter!

If you have other suggestions for charitable events people can participate in, please let me know and I’ll add them. 


  1. Whoa- no way! I’ve been reading your blog for a year or so and never knew you had a connection with the Davis family. I was best friends with Sarah in high school and was so excited to hear that they had found a match for Mary to get Sydney the kidney. 🙂

  2. Such a great and timely post! You are absolutely right–we have a real problem in this culture with putting professional athletes on pedestals. When the house of cards comes crashing down, we are always stunned and really, we shouldn’t be. We created it in the first place.

    Very inspiring story about Brent. I hope all goes well with his donation–true meaning of hero.
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  3. Well said. I nominate Lisa McLellan’s Kyle’s Krusade as a cause. She’s at
    Axel recently posted..The Lance Armstrong ThingMy Profile

  4. I am addicted to your blog, but I have to say this article tops them all. You’ve nailed it! As I type this, I ask myself “would I be able to donate a kidney?” Brent is unreal, incredible, awesome, there are not enough praise words to describe what amazing human being he is! Thank you SO much for bringing his story public. He is my hero, bowing down right now!! and thank you so very much for supporting the Kyle’s Krusade Race. xoxo
    Lisa McClellan recently posted..Boston Training and the Plump Orange BeanMy Profile

  5. Oh, what a lovely post! You’re so right- the heros are usually not the famous ones… I can think of a few in my life as well, that will probably never get the recognition they deserve. He sounds like such an inspiring guy… especially the humble piece- I’m always in awe of people who do great works quietly.
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Why Running Dreams MatterMy Profile

  6. Hear hear! Heroes are all around us indeed. Enough with the celebrity hype. What an amazing man Brent is. So inspiring!

  7. This is such a refreshing take on this whole Armstrong thing. I’ve been keeping myself from reading too much about it because it’s just not worth my time. People like your friend are so much more worth reading about. Best of luck in his recovery.
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  8. We were just talking about this at work. It’s sad to say but I think the large majority of professional athletes are doing something that is not within the rules of their sport. Real people = real heroes. Well said.

    Best of luck to Brent and Mary! Very inspiring!
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..I Jinxed MyselfMy Profile

  9. It’s harder to be a hero when there’s not a legion of fans lining up to reward you either. Great stuff and great post and great guy..

    My nephew survived cancer and months of debilitating chemo at age ten, wore a “livestrong” bracelet (I didn’t mention this in my post) but has not been crushed by the recent Armstrong news. I was more crushed for him.
    Mark matthews recently posted..Doping (More Stuff)My Profile

  10. Such a great post and so well said. Yes, we do need to stop glorifying professional athletes and celebrities. Heros are all around us every day doing quiet and beautiful work. Brent is a hero. I hope that everything goes well with his donation.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Friday Round-Up: Live.StrongMy Profile

  11. 100% agree! I’ve been saying it to so many of my friends for years, that I have a hard time giving too much merit to most professional athletes. I’m not a huge pro-sports fan at all. Too much money, sponsorships, and other aspects cloud sports now that it is hard to filter out the true skill and talent sometimes. Something that struck me last year was during the Air Force Half Marathon, we hear about so many “celeb” and “high profile” runners, yet a whole bunch of soldiers were running the satellite Air Force Marathon in Afghanistan, many just as quick and speedy, yet had no fanfare and no one has heard of them. Just quiet and humble runners, running it 🙂 It is one thing I do love about running, all of us can participate!
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