Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Deserving a second chance is not the same thing as being entitled to one

Tuesday night, Adam Greenberg got his first official at-bat in a Major League Baseball game.
Over seven years ago, he was struck in the head by the first pitch he faced in what should have been his first at-bat (getting plunked in the melon doesn't count as an "official" at-bat). A pinch runner took his place at first so he could be treated for any potential head trauma and his big league career was over.
Filmmaker Matt Liston launched an online campaign called "One At Bat" in order to get a major league team to give Greenberg the chance to have what he was denied long ago. Major League Baseball made a special roster exemption available to the Miami Marlins, who signed Greenberg and gave him his long-lost opportunity. He entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch hitter against the Mets' R.A. Dickey and struck out on three pitches.
On the surface, this is one of those feel-good stories that pop up in real life every now and then on their way to the Disney studios before coming to rest at a theatre near you. But if you dig down just a little bit, there isn't a whole lot of substance to feel good about; at best, it's a nice thing to do for a guy who kinda got screwed but at worst, it's a case of reward without merit.
"This was never a gimmick. I got to the major leagues on my own merit. I worked up through the ranks as a little kid and all the way up. I earned that spot seven years ago." -- Adam Greenberg
I'm not disputing what he says. The thing is, there are literally hundreds of guys since 2005 who had shots at big league careers that just didn't work out for one reason or another who could say the same thing and thousands who came along before 2005 who could plead similar cases. He's not a victim of injustice, he's a victim of Shit Happens. He's not someone who got close, was denied and then toiled away to work his way back to where he was, he's someone who benefited from a public relations campaign. This isn't Rocky Balboa or Rudy Ruettiger or Jim Morris. This is a guy who had his shot and it just didn't work out. Sure, it stinks that things didn't turn out the way he planned because of circumstances beyond his control but who among us can't say the same thing? "I could have been _____ if not for _____."
In my humble opinion, I don't think it's healthy to draw inspiration from a story like this. Because the message ultimately is "if you get a bad break, even especially if it wasn't your fault, if somebody else feels as bad about it as you do, they might take steps on your behalf to make it right." I don't fault Greenberg for wanting a second chance and I don't fault Liston for helping to make it happen. That's very nice. I just don't think it's a good idea for people who've been dealt a shitty hand to think of themselves as the next Adam Greenberg and to sit around complaining about their circumstances and waiting for the next Matt Liston to come to their rescue.

For example, here's how I apply this situation to my own life (because the point of everything that ever happens in the universe is how I draw parallels from it and apply them to MY life; me, me, me, me, me)...

I was at a spring training game in St. Petersburg with the intent of getting Dave Winfield's autograph. Winfield has always been one of my favorite players and I was excited as I staked out a spot along the rail near the first base dugout, putting me in a prime spot right up front. When I saw him, I politely called out and he headed over. Immediately I was surrounded by other fans who also wanted his autograph. When he got to the fence, he took the blue Sharpie I had offered in my right hand but didn't take the '76 Topps baseball card I had in my left. He started signing other people's items as I waited patiently for him to get to my card. Eventually he announced, "I have to go" and he walked off without having signed my card, taking my Sharpie with him. So in spite of doing everything 'right', I not only didn't get the autograph but lost a pen in the process. Do I think Dave Winfield owes me an autograph? Of course not. It sucks, it isn't fair but shit happens. Put on a helmet and get an autograph from somebody else instead.

I do feel that he owes me a blue Sharpie, though. So if you're reading this, Dave Winfield (or any crusading filmmakers with some free time on your hands), get in touch and let's right this wrong. 
"Give me back my pen! (please)"

1 comment:

Mike Stuben said...


When I was a kid I got taken to an Orioles vs. Yankees spring training game.

I was so excited to get about a dozen Orioles to sign the program, since they were my favorite team.

On the way out to our car, my dad notices Dave Winfield, walking to his car, and tells me to go get his autograph.

Since the cover of the program was the place of honor reserved for the Oriole scrubs I had gotten earlier, I opened up a back page and offered him the crossword puzzle to sign.

I still have a game program with a dozen nobodys signatures on the cover, and Dave Winfield on the crossword puzzle. The greatest irony, it was a Yankee game program, which featured a giant photo of Dave Winfield on the cover.

I never saw him in person up close again.