A friend of mine is taking his young son to Chicago for a memorabilia/autograph show featuring several sports legends.

The kid is so thrilled, he can barely sleep.

"Many of them are his favorite sports heroes," my friend said.

Autographs range from $25 to $179, depending on the item you bring.

We're again missing the point here.

Professional athletes are among a gifted few who thrill and entertain us as fans, but they are not worthy of the high pedestal we place them on.

Role models, if they care to be.

Heroes who risk their lives for others, hardly.

Sunday night's worst mass shooting in U.S. history — 59 killed, 527 injured — at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas gave us heroes in all shapes and sizes.

They can live next door or down the street.

We have met countless heroes through media coverage of Sunday night's massacre and will continue to for days to come.

Local law enforcement in Las Vegas, hospital staff, fire rescue, first-responders, concert security, these are your real heroes in everyday life.

They even included concert-goers who risked their lives to help those in need among the crowd of 22,000 as panic set in.

Complete strangers shielded each other during the nine-minute barrage of bullets coming from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel.

They drove shooting victims to hospitals or stayed with them, holding their hand, applying pressure on their wounds, until paramedics or police arrived.

Intuition took over. They needed to help anyway possible while others fled. The thought of getting shot was erased from their mind.

These are your true heroes, not the .350 cleanup hitter, 1,000-yard rusher or 30-point scorer.

Take it a step further.

Let's add the Red Cross. FEMA. Salvation Army.

The recent hurricanes and earthquakes opened our eyes to their importance in restoring hope and order.

How about teachers, social workers and crossing guards? Can't do without them.

It'll be a cold day you know where when I pay anything for a pro athlete's signature.

Sports is a good distraction that insulates us when tragic times test our faith and spirit.

But it's the real heroes who deliver us from harm.

Please don't forget that.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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