John F. Russell: Where have all of our heroes gone?

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As a child growing up in Denver, finding a sports hero was as easy as turning on the television on a Sunday afternoon.

John Elway was the hope and future of the Denver Broncos. When he touched the football, he brought a whole city, and many times the whole state, to its feet. People from other places, especially Cleveland, can't understand what the quarterback meant to Denver or what it meant when he became the first Bronco to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

His name screams football louder than Fourth of July fireworks or a teenager's car stereo.

Growing up in the shadow of Mile High Stadium, the real Mile High, and John Elway was a treat for football fans. I always will remember the day the Broncos beat Green Bay and earned the team's first Super Bowl title.

These days, I can't help but feel sorry for young sports fans seeking heroes on the field or court. Today's star athletes seem to switch teams more often than they change socks.

Loyalty in sports has taken a back seat to big contracts and free agency. Players give little thought to the effect they have on a community.

If you're one of those fans who doesn't keep up with the sports pages during the off-season, it means you probably will need a cheat sheet when the football season begins just to figure out which team you are watching on the field.

It's a far cry from when I was growing up as a fan of John Elway.

I knew when the season started each fall that No. 7 would be behind the center in a Bronco's uniform, and I had a pretty good idea who was going to be around him. By contrast, since the free agency boom, I've learned quickly not to get too attached to any player.

Players such as Clinton Portis will come and go in today's world because players will trade our orange and blue hearts for the greener bucks on the other side of the league.

Sure, the Broncos could have kept Portis, but at what price and for how long?

I can't blame the guy, but that doesn't help all those children in Denver who cheered for him, bragged about him to their friends at school and bought his jersey in hopes of being just like him.

A few years from now, people will have trouble remembering the guy's name and what he did in Denver.

While the new trend for players to jump from one team to another makes me sad, I have come to the realization that it's just a sign of the times.

It's not all bad.

Maybe in the future children will have to look to other places to find their heroes, instead of idolizing spoiled, money hungry sports stars.

I hope they will search for their heroes at home because that's where they will find the type of role model who will never leave them alone with their dreams on a Sunday afternoon.

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