What happens when a giant falls?

It feels like an inescapable truth these days that our heroes eventually turn into zeroes.

While Lance Armstrong's legendary cheating scandal got the big national headlines this month, a true American hero has fallen.

The Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show is the biggest of its kind. It was the event we were all so proud to have right in our backyard. It was the show I told my out-of-town buddies to do whatever they could to attend.

But this year, the giant is lying on its back. The legend has been destroyed. The show has been put on hold. And our once-beloved hero has a tarnished name.

The huge outdoor expo at the Farm Show Complex served as an annual wintertime ritual for so many of us. It was where like-minded brethren could sneak away from the real world for a few hours -- where politics and debate were left outside.

But this year, the real world came stomping to us. And guns have claimed another victim. When the folks that put on the show said the sale and display of so-called assault rifles was off limits, the greatest show of its kind got pulled into a fight it doesn't deserve.

The question now is not whether the move was right or wrong. The huge list of folks who backed away from the show proved that most of us have already made up our minds.

Instead, it's time to move beyond making a statement. It's time to lead. If we don't, the local sporting community could be forever branded with an image we don't want or deserve.

For generations, the nation's hunting and fishing heritage has transcended the shackles of politics. Fish your favorite trout stream and you're as likely to have a granola-eating hippie on your left as you are a guy with a Rush Limbaugh tattoo on your right. That's the power of our sports.

But if we don't wade the waters ahead carefully, the magic could be lost. Suddenly, because of what's happened over the last week, merely being a hunter or an angler could be a political statement.

Your son who wants to enjoy a day in the woods with you will be slapped with a label he doesn't deserve. Your daughter who wants to feel the thrill of a fish on the end of her line won't be able to admit it to her friends.

It would be a tragedy. Politics will divide our ranks seemingly overnight. The heritage I'm so eager to hand to my young son will be destroyed.

That's why this is our greatest chance yet to lead the fight. The impressive display of principle pouring out of the exhibitors, vendors and speakers who politely excused themselves from the show caught the attention of a wide audience and ultimately led to major change. And now, both sides of the aisle are paying attention.

That means this is our opportunity. This is our chance to raise our heads and march in unity. But we must do it with maturity, conviction, and honor -- all the traits that make us so proud to be called sportsmen.

Our hero has fallen. But unlike a doped-up cyclist, our champion did nothing wrong. He was slammed by the decision of someone else. As fans of the outdoors, it is up to us to help him off the ground. It's up to us to ensure our hero is strong enough to make a grand comeback -- in whatever form that will be.

I don't care if you agree with the way this all turned out. Our opinions won't change what has happened. But I beg you to keep the fight clean. Keep politics out of the outdoors or our hero will be gone forever.

Andy Snyder writes about outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.