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Who’s a hero? That depends

Updated: May 13, 2013 2:16AM

Charles Ramsey did a heroic thing when he helped pull down a door and cleared a path to freedom for Cleveland kidnapping victim Amanda Berry, her daughter and two other victims: Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

Ramsey didn’t know who else was behind that door. Ariel Castro, charged with the kidnappings, rapes and murders of the victims’ unborn children, could have been coming with a knife or a gun.

But Ramsey’s backstory suggests he is far from heroic. The Smoking Gun website researched court records and found Ramsey had three separate domestic violence convictions that had landed him in prison.

TSG pulled a police report that documented his wife’s plea to police in which she screamed, “My husband is trying to kill me!” In another 911 call made by the woman, a male voice could be heard in the background threatening to kill her.

Hero worship is dicey and complicated. It’s easy to get sucked in, especially amid accounts as bone-chilling as those in Cleveland. We want to latch on to a good deed. Ramsey gave us that.

We look for heroes in all walks of life.

We learn of courageous missions overseas carried out by Green Berets and Navy Seals and we applaud their bravery. It is deserved.

They are war heroes, and I find it necessary to place them in that context. It should be left up to their families to determine if they are heroes at home, especially in light of the high rates of domestic violence that exist in the military.

We gravitate to sports stars because they provide an escape from our troubles or the mundane. These guys are not heroes but talented athletes and entertainers.

Once irrefutable evidence revealed that Lance Armstrong doped his way through all those Tour de France cycling titles, some still saw him as heroic for beating cancer.

Not to diminish that fight or his survival, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the doping caused or fueled the cancer in the first place. Armstrong stared down cancer, but other victims do the same, or try, without being placed on a pedestal for it.

He hasn’t done anything egregious, but Chicago’s own Derrick Rose has tumbled from the so-called hero ranks. A knee injury suffered last year, the kind that has derailed the careers of many professional athletes, so far has wiped out this season for the Bulls star.

Cleared to play a few months ago by the team doctor, Rose hasn’t suited up while some teammates with less serious injuries have played through pain. Yet, if Rose’s mind is clouded by doubts of his readiness, he shouldn’t check into a game. That’s a recipe for tentative play and possibly another injury.

He’ll come back next season and, after a good game or two, some will call him a hero.

NBA free agent Jason Collins has been hailed as a hero for finding the courage to say he is gay. That took guts, but does his former fiancee, whom he was with for eight years, see him as heroic?

Heroes exist in our imagination as well as in comic books, novels and movies.

In the real world, we have flawed human beings who occasionally do heroic things. That’s good enough for me.

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