Standing Ovation

The baseball playoffs begin next week. As a fan of the game, this is usually the best time of year; six months worth of prelude finally over, the real meat of the story ready to begin. Drama unfolds, anything can happen, and heroes are born.

A funny thing is happening as I get older though. I am still drawn to the unpredictability and drama of the game…but find myself less and less a believer in the notion of these men as heroes.

In this moment from THE NATURAL, Glenn Close’s character, Iris, is trying to spur a man she believes to be a hero to many. She is trying to silently show him that even though he is mired in a hitting slump, and seemingly at a loss for answers, that there are still fans who believe in him. While many will sit and stew, she gets to her feet in a show of support. In the book, she’ll later explain that she feels that the world needs heroes. She says that without them we’re all plain people and don’t know how far we can go.

Being the age I am now, I find that she is half-right. The world does need heroes. Hell, in these selfish times we live in, we probably need them more than ever. Thing is, I don’t believe that many athletes are heroes. Not anymore…not as an adult. The feats they can achieve are still marvelous to witness, and entertaining as hell. But where once I might be prompted to stand alongside Iris and prod my favourite players toward greatness, I’m now more likely to sit and stew. I still believe in the game, I just don’t believe in the players.

This change in me can’t just be chalked up to age and cynicism. The big difference between the game as it’s portrayed in THE NATURAL and the game as it happens in Major League baseball today is the fact that we know so much more. So many more details are covered, so much more of the curtain has been drawn back. The mythos that once surrounded players like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams is long gone. In its place are intricate details of selfishness and insecurity. The crazy thing is that the negative details of characters like Ruth and Ty Cobb were well known…now however, we’re getting these details so much more unfiltered…and it’s a tougher pill to swallow.

What’s worse is that as we age, we have to swallow that pill again and again.

“I have a job to do” you’ll hear athletes say again and again. They refer to their role as an individual in a larger team, but it’s hard to get past the specific point of it being “a job”. One gets visions of clocking in, of carrying a lunchbox. Heroes don’t see it as a job – or if they do, they’d never call it that.

The baseball playoffs might well be a delight for any young fan. They may yet witness the unexpected, great drama, and find great inspiration from their favorite players. They may stand and cheer them with so many around them have given up. But when the games are over and the trophies are handed out, I hope they can be inspired to be greater than these so-called heroes that they stand in the sun to support…that they can find something great they have to offer the world and see it as more than “a job to do”.

 

Three more from THE NATURAL for the road…
Hobbs vs Whammer

Black Widow

Home Run

This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far