The Wonder — and Disappointment — of Meeting Your Heroes


Some say meeting your heroes will change the course of your life. Others say it will inevitably lead to disappointment and will break the fantasy you created of them. One Williston senior has had the experience twice — with drastically different results.
Jose Paiz, a senior from Guatemala City, had the privilege of meeting his two biggest sports heroes: José Mourinho and Lionel Messi.
Jose met Mourinho at the age of eight at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Mourinho, at the time, was the manager of Real Madrid, a soccer team of which Jose was a huge fan. The two of them met after El Clásico, the historic game that occurs every year between Barcelona and Real Madrid, where Real Madrid lost 3 to 1.
Jose recounted that his dad stopped Mourinho right after the game in the tunnel to the locker rooms, and asked him to kindly take a picture. When Jose advanced towards him and said ‘Hi, can I take a picture with you? You’re my idol,’ Mourinho just nodded and quickly took the picture, without even smiling. He then walked away yelling at his staff and shut the door of the locker room.
Jose was devastated after Mourinho left, and he couldn’t stop wondering whether he was the cause of Mourinho’s reaction in the tunnel.
“I felt really bad, [like] I did something wrong that upset him,” Jose said. “Hearing him yelling at the players in the locker room made me feel even worse, because I again felt like I started that off.”
Even though Jose’s dad tried to explain to him that Mourinho’s reaction didn’t have anything to do with him, the young Jose started to feel the magic of his idol slowly fade away.
Indeed, Jose reported that his relationship with his idol drastically changed after that incident, and shared that he doesn’t look up to him anymore.
“Since that accident I started to look at him in a different way, like more distant,” Jose said.
We unconsciously build distorted images of those we admire. It is then inevitable that with time this image becomes biased and predisposed to reflect our perception of our heroes rather than the truth. We have unrealistic expectations of them that convince us of their flawlessness. We’ve always been told to not judge a book by its cover, but we break that rule by holding on to these illusions we create.
Tyla Taylor, AP Psychology teacher, shared with The Willistonian the myth behind meeting your heroes.
Taylor agreed that social media is one of the main features of our illusions. Indeed, posts on social media drive us away from the truth, showing a sort of “highlight reel” of these heroes’ lives and omitting their flaws. Many times, this leads to what she called an “upward social comparison [where] we are setting them up as an image of perfection,” Taylor stated.
On the concept of perfection, Taylor introduced the “halo effect.” This phenomenon occurs when we think positively about a specific trait of a person, which results in carrying the positivity to the entire individual, creating an inaccurate representation of them.
Taylor explained what consequences idolization of our heroes has when the image of perfection shatters after you meet them.
“When you put someone on a pedestal based on an idolized view and limited information, it can be devastating to find out they are humans like the rest of us,” Taylor stated. “Therefore, if we look for perfection, our hero is destined to fail – leaving us reevaluating our commitment to them in the first place.”
Jose’s second experience meeting an idol had a completely different outcome. This time Jose met arguably the greatest football player in history, Lionel Messi.
Jose was in the VIP Lounge at the Miami International Airport when he saw Messi with his family waiting to board the aircraft. Not certain it was him, Jose went up to the front desk to ask one of the assistants, who denied everything. Jose’s dad grabbed him, walked up to Messi, and explained how big of a fan Jose was, and that he wanted some advice from him on both soccer and life.
Messi’s response shocked Jose, who didn’t expect him to warmly and patiently answer, and to dedicate time to him even though Messi was with his family.
“I was shocked that such a famous person would want to give advice to me […], he was so nice and friendly,” Jose recounted.
Messi told Jose that “you have to fight for your dreams, believe in yourself and trust the process, never give up.”