Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"A First Class Problem"

My familiarity with this idea derives from baseball.  An example of a “First-Class Problem” in baseball is a situation in which a team finds itself with a surfeit of starting pitching. 

Why is that a problem?  Because, with the standard five-man rotation – that maximum allows the selected five pitchers to get in enough regular work to stay sharp – if you have six of seven viable starting pitchers, the difficulty arises in determining which five of those starting pitchers to employ. 

This is a problem most baseball managers would appreciate, in contrast to needing five reliable starting pitchers and, like the current Dodgers, having, at the best of times, two or three.  That’s why they call it a “First-Class Problem.”  It is unquestionably a problem – determining which five pitchers to employ – but it is a problem that all baseball teams would happily like to have.


Not you, me.

How does the “First-Class Problem” idea apply in the blog writing arena?

Well, sir… or madam… the counterpart in this undertaking to not having enough starting pitching is not having a viable story to work on.  And by “viable”, I mean a story that is unequivocally worth communicating.

You would think that if you have given yourself the assignment of producing five posts a week, the most difficult challenge in that undertaking would be…

“What am I going to write about?”

You would imagine that the ongoing quest for material would be your thorniest difficulty.  You are sitting at your computer, ready to begin, only to realize that your mind is entirely blank.  

A blog writer’s hauntingest nightmare, right?  Or any communicator’s.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,



The opposite of that, of course, would be having an idea.  You come up with a workable story premise, and off you go.  It’s as simple as that.

Except… (My voice rising Talmucially on the “…cept”)


There is more to it than that.

Okay, so, like, yesterday, I had an idea.  Hooray.  Like the president used to be, I was

“Fired up and ready to go.”

What had I chosen to write about?  Well, I had recently re-watched The Crimson Pirate on TCM and it occurred to me that this movie was deliriously bursting with life, as compared to current action movies that are full of computer-generated pyrotechnics, but they somehow leave the audience – if the audience is me at least – unengaged.  (Or is it dis­-engaged?  Whatever it is.  The opposite of engaged.  There was also supposed to be an adjective before “unengaged”, but I could not think of a good one.)

That, I believed, was a story.  Although I had written similar laments of this nature before.  “Oh, the past!  The glorious past!”

Barely and hour before I was about to begin, a more all-encompassing perspective came to mind, involving the experience of an identifiable “shared humanity” in entertainment that, albeit in altered packaging, continues to appear today, thus invalidating the overworked complaint that things are no longer what they were.

Whew!  I thought.  A welcome reprieve from yet another rendition of  “I’m old, and everything’s worse.”

The thing is…

… and here comes the confession – and I ask you to think while you consider this confession, how courageous I am for publically confessing it –

If that all-encompassing perspective had not occurred to me,

I was fully prepared to write the whinier version.

I know.  A flawed hero.  What can I tell you?

Let me explain how the foregoing aligns with my opening paragraphs.

Having an idea for a blog post is better than not having an idea for a blog post. 

Whether to write it or not appears to be a “First-Class Problem.”

It turns out, however,

That it isn’t.

Not if you can write.

Because – and this insight came only recently to my attention…

If you can write – if you have the professional chops to put things on paper, and the interest to do so, and the experience of having done numerous times in the past, and, yeah – he added embarrassedly – a natural gift for writing, then it turns out…

That you can write anything.

Including a not so spectacular idea.

That’s the “problem” element of the “First-Class Problem.”

You can write the thing.  Whether you ought to or not.

You know that saying,

“It’s like putting lipstick on a pig”?

If you know how to write…

You can actually do that.

Consider filmmakers, or authors, or painters, or playwrights that you admire.  Have you ever heard yourself responding to their latest offering by saying,

“It is not their best work”?

It is possible – though there are admittedly other explanations – that you have just experienced a recognized professional – possibly one of even the highest caliber – who, when immersing themselves in a project, had confused their stylistic abilities, which were formidable, with their selected idea, theme or concept they had chosen to apply those stylistic abilities to, which was not.

A fellow blogger recently asked me if I had ever given up on a blog post that I had started.  My response to his query was,


This is my 1913th blog post.  Having never abandoned any blog post I had started, it now occurs to me to wonder how many times I have inadvertently…

Applied my unique brand of Pomerantzian lipstick

To a porker.

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