"There is a crack, a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."
- Leonard Cohen
The heroes of my youth were always from the world of sports.
I believed that Pistol Pete Maravich, with his floppy hair and floppy socks, walked on water when he performed his magic on a basketball court.
The great Swede, Bjorn Borg, held me spellbound as he moved like a gazelle while hitting a tennis ball endlessly back over the net in Paris and London.
Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory and backed up his words against the mighty Colts in 1969.
Bill Rodgers owned the city of Boston, and the marathon distance, as he ran to victory over 26.2 miles in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
Who could be greater, I thought, than a young man named Montana who threw touchdown after touchdown, making it all look effortless, for my beloved Irish in South Bend?
No one manned the left side of a baseball infield like the Oriole's Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson. They made the incredible look routine.
Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe were the epitome of cool as New York Knickerbocker backcourt mates during the championship season of '73.
As the world spins you into an older - and hopefully wiser - version of the person you once were, priorities begin to change, and the details of living each day seem to siphon time and energy like a weary child who refuses to nap.
Then the perpetual fog of life gradually begins to thin, as does the hairline, and we start to see things a bit more clearly through the hours of adulthood.
Suddenly, the winner of the game doesn't seem to matter as much as it once did. The fastest one in a race pales in comparison to all of those who show up, give it their all, and enjoy being a part of the moment. The one wearing the crown isn't always the true champion.
The skin wrinkles and the days pass more quickly. You begin to pay less attention to the stars of sport, stage and screen and start to think back more on the people who have influenced you in a positive way - the ones who have passed through the revolving door of life and left a lasting impression.
A lasting impression was stamped on me earlier this fall when I read the stories of the people whose lives have been touched and altered by cancer. I turned the pages, reading each story in the Post Independent's special edition, which coincided with the opening of the Calaway-Young Cancer Center at Valley View Hospital.
These people are life's true heroes, the ones to be admired.
The trivial inconveniences we face each day that bring us down are laughable in comparison to the struggles people battling cancer must go through. I know many of the brave folks that I read about. I see how they carry on with their lives, embracing every sunrise and the loved ones who fill their spirits with the hope of many tomorrows.
It's an inspiration to think of them, the way my sports heroes used to inspire me on the playing field.
If I'm picking a winner, a true hero, it's the people whose stories will stay with me for as long as my memory will allow, the people I see each day who carry on with living, loving and laughing. Through their actions, they remind the rest of us what a hero really is, and that cancer can never truly be the winner over the human spirit when the final score is posted.
- Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.