Nick Fradiani was the winner of the 14th installment of the Fox hit is a 29-year-old rocker from Guilford, Connecticut. Fradiani knocked off Clark Beckham of White House, Tennessee in the finals. “This is amazing,” Nick told host Ryan Seacrest. “This is the best day of my life.” Joining Idol alums such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and Kris Allen, Fradiani is set to receive close to half a million dollars in benefits for his trouble. “I can’t even think right now,” said the newest Idol. The show will bring its final installment next year, confirmed Fox executives, as its Nielson ratings have plunged from 30.3 million viewers to 9.15 million in 2015. Nick Fradiani is a big deal . . . today. But in a few weeks, only the most astute Idol fans will remember his name.
That’s how it usually works with idols. Think about some of your celebrity idols from years gone by. My childhood idol was Willie Mays, the “Say Hey” kid, and best baseball player of all time. As a young musician, I idolized jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson. As a football fan in Houston, I came to idolize Earl Campbell, the greatest player I ever saw. I would later idolize Ronald Reagan. As far as comedians go, my idol was Bob Newhart. But it’s funny. None of these men really affected my life. Mays never hit a ball with his bat or Ferguson a note with his horn that changed me. Campbell, Reagan, and Newhart did nothing that altered the trajectory of my life. But I’ll tell you who did. His name was Elga Steward. His name was Jim Trevathan. His name was Cecil Sewell. And his name was Gene Wofford. You won’t find their pictures in People or their stories in Newsweek. But they were my idols. They did change my life. In order, these men were my eighth grade English teacher, senior high band director, pastor, and college professor.
John Maxwell had it right when he said, “You impress people from a distance, but you influence them up close.” I confess. I watched the last part of the last episode of American Idol. Nick Fradiani is a rare talent. But I will never be able to spell his last name from memory and I won’t remember his first name tomorrow. He impressed me, but he didn’t influence me. American’s Idol is not my idol. You can have Nick. I’m sure he’s a fine young man. But as for me, I’ll stick with the men who have proven themselves over the course of time: Elga, Jim, Cecil, and Gene. They are difference-makers. They are my mentors. And in the best sense of the word, they are, and will forever be, my idols.