Drooling on the Pillow

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Kirby Puckett 

I was having a conversation with an old friend the other night about, among other things, what jerks actors can be. My position is that there are jerks in every walk of life, but truly, acting and sports produce borderline sociopaths far out of proportion to their numbers in the population. And it's easy to understand why.

An actor who becomes hot young is a 20 year old who is surrounded all day every day by fawning, adoring, sycophantic crowds who compete for his attention and approval. Most kids in that situation probably understand, at least for awhile, that they're really not as wonderful as everyone in his world says they are. But day after day, week after week, month after month, he receives the evaluation of the world. Every guy wants to be his pal, every girl wants to sleep with him, every producer, agent, writer and director says he's a genius. Most people, eventually, will become convinced. It takes rather a lot of character to grow up in that environment with any kind of perspective on yourself.

Similarly, a sports hero has always been the best athlete in his town, his county, and often his state. He's a legend by the time he's fifteen. And it starts earlier than that.

Grace is the best athlete in her class. She plays in the Roberto Clemente league which means that girls have to go to softball once they're eight years old. Last year she was scouted by two or three of the softball teams. They actually approached me to find out what her plans were. Now, she's a very good athlete, probably not a great one. But, for chrissakes, she's eight years old.

Great athletes are noticed early and celebrated from that point on. They get help with their grades, they get help with any little scrapes they get into. And they get the cheerleaders. Any fifteen year old who has adults constantly competing for his attention and favors and grows up with anything like a realistic understanding of his value in the big world is a very special kid.

I am truly saddened by the death of Kirby Puckett. I'm getting used to ball players of my youth passing on, but they've reached their seventies now. It's just wrong for an athlete more than a decade younger than you to die.

He was one of the best players of his era and one of the best guys of any era. He played at a level of grace, passion, intensity, skill and sportsmanship that was unique. He got a bad break when his career was cut short with glaucoma, but his retirement announcement was typical. Everyone was blubbering but Kirby. He was smiling.

He knew who he was. He didn't sell himself short. He was just a nice guy who was grateful for finishing first.

Scott Johnson of Powerline quoted A.E. Houseman's To An athlete, Dying Young:
THE time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Listed on BlogShares