FENNO: Oscar Pistorius only latest example of role model giving way to reality

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Somehow we confused athletic brilliance with morality, turned a sprinter into a savior, an ideal because of what his blades did on those synthetic tracks.

There’s another commercial, hastily banished to the Internet’s dark corners by Nike after the killing.

“My body is my weapon,” Pistorius begins in a determined voice touched by his accent.

Each move brings the sound of a gun being cocked. A cyclist snapping shoe onto pedal. A boxer pushing in a mouthguard. A sprinter backing into his starting blocks.

“This is how I fight … how I defend.”

An ominous rustle of drums.

“This is my weapon.”

A gunshot follows as a soccer player kicks a ball. A runner explodes from the blocks. A swimmer plunges into the water.

In real life, three more gunshots followed. They tore through the bathroom door in Pistorius‘ home in a gated community. One in Steenkamp’s head. Hip. Chest. Hand.

The Olympian claimed he mistook her for an intruder, in a country where an average of 43 people are murdered each day. But multiple reports Monday claimed Steenkamp’s head was bashed in with a cricket bat. Stories of domestic problems and a man who was jealous and possessive filled South African newspapers.

A sometime-model and law school graduate, Steenkamp had  retweeted a call to wear black the next day to bring attention to the abuse of women. She didn’t live through the night.

So, the idealized portrait of Pistorius disappeared into a mess of blood and tears and questions.

The same fervor that gripped Pistorius‘ ascension turned to deconstructing his demise. There’s nothing unique in that. We turn strangers into heroes, think we know them because of what their bodies do and what the commercials tell us, then tear them down.

Maybe we’re too quick. Too trusting. Too willing to believe feel-good stories that too often are stripped of the ugly reality. Too ready to draw life lessons from someone who lives between the lines of a soccer pitch or football field. Maybe our role models, the real ones, are outside the lines.

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