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Oscar De La Hoya's statue at Staples: the why of it all

December 3, 2008 |  1:55 pm

A 14-foot bronze statue in the likeness of Oscar De La Hoya stands in front of Staples Center.

I confess to being slightly taken aback at the debate over whether or not Oscar De La Hoya deserved to have himself depicted in a statue outside of Staples Center.

His 14-foot likeness, standing on the ropes in a celebration pose after a boxing victory, was unveiled for all Monday, near statues of other Los Angeles sports icons, the former Laker Magic Johnson and the former Kings hockey star Wayne Gretzky.

Here in Las Vegas, where De La Hoya will fight Manny Pacquiao in a 147-pound match that has become the biggest noisemaker of the year, there continues to be much debate over De La Hoya's statue-worthiness. Part of that is because our sports columnist, Bill Plaschke, wrote that maybe there are others more worthy, that maybe a boxer who hasn't won a lot recently and who has a business connection with the people who run Staples Center and decide on the statues doesn't quite make the cut.

The boxing community gathered here seems to have taken much exception to that stance, because to diss De La Hoya, boxing's main draw and most charismatic character over the last 10 years, is to diss the sport as a whole.

For what it's worth, I have a different take on this whole thing.

Why are any sports stars immortalized in statues?

Is what they do (for the entertainment of the rest of us and for large sums of money) worth a permanent place in our lives and those of the future generations? Are these the role models we want to point to -- as fine people as they are and as much as they have achieved under great gobs of pressure --when we tell our children that they are to emulate those who are now bronzed?

I think our country got it right with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

How about a place outside Staples Center for a statue of the unknown firefighter, who rousted people out of their homes around Los Angeles a few weeks ago and then manned the front lines with a hose?

How about a generic cop, a generic emergency room doctor, a generic scientist creating vaccines to keep us alive? How about a generic teacher, surrounded by teens, clearly eager to learn because this generic teacher has inspired them.

I know, that's pretty naive, kind of Pollyanna-like.

I take it back. Sorry I even brought it up. I guess I just slipped into a bad moment there, but I have recovered.

As I ponder it further, I can see that our world needs more multimillionaires in jockstraps to be the cornerstones of our future.

As a younger generation used to say, my bad.

-- Bill Dwyre

Photo: A 14-foot bronze statue in the likeness of Oscar De La Hoya stands in front of Staples Center. Credit: Harry How / Getty Images