This is one of those posts in which I am hoping, in the process of developing it, to figure out why exactly I am bothering. Sometimes it happens that way.
Okay, here we go.
Not long ago, Major League Baseball announced the list of its latest inductees entering Cooperstown’s revered and hallowed “Hall of Fame.”
Covering the highly anticipated announcement, the chosen honorees are described as having ascended to the “Hall of Fame”, or having been elevated to the “Hall of Fame”, or more mundanely, that they were elected to the “Hall of Fame”, although an echoing whisper from my University of Toronto “Comparative Religion” days reminds me that amongst early Protestants “The Elect” were people believed to have been specially anointed by God. Which is not that mundane.
This descriptive vocabulary suggests that these newly-arrived “Hall of Famers” were movin’ on up…
… to heaven.
Only “The Best of the Best” achieve entry into the “Hall of Fame.” If you ignore Pete Rose, who collected more hits than any player in baseball history but was barred from inclusion because he bet on the games. Or Barry Bonds who hit more home runs than anyone else but who, to date, has been rejected, owing to strong suspicions he used unsanctioned performance-enhancing drugs. Or Roger Clemens, who won more Cy Young Awards as his league’s best pitcher (7), “Hall of Fame”-snubbed for a similar infraction.
These exclusions mean that the most prolific hitter, the greatest home run slugger, and the game’s arguably all-time best pitcher are all absent from an institution dedicated to honoring baseball’s crowning participants.
Even though their conspicuous absence seems perplexing – especially since racial and sexual infractions are not equally disqualifying – my belief is that cheaters should never be rewarded, except with money, fame and beautiful girlfriends, which, I mean, whattaya gonna do? But where you can… sidestepping the obscenity… I say, the heck with ‘em!
(Should these players ultimately never be inducted, there has been the suggestion – made by me – of establishing an alternative “Asterisk ‘Hall of Fame’”, where their monumental achievements would be separately celebrated.)
Here’s the thing.
Wait. Here’s the thing before the thing.
Halls of Fame, in any area of endeavor, are primarily tourist attractions. (And remunerative “profit centers” for all concerned.) People buy tickets to enter designated buildings, where they can check out their heroes’ “Hall”-housed memorabilia, and go,
“Shaquille O’Neal’s sneaker. That’s big!”
Visitors love these places, so who am I to complain? I myself have never been to Cooperstown but, were it not in the middle of nowhere, I’d be excited to go there. I have visited the revered and hallowed “Hockey Hall of Fame” in reachable downtown Toronto, standing in awe before the celebrated Stanley Cup. (Or was it a replica? Generating replicated awe? Which, I’d say, is better than no awe at all.)
It’s just that… well…
Okay, here it comes.
Some people are born with more natural ability than others. And that’s that. The question is, why are we honoring “natural ability”? Sure, they have it. But they didn’t create it. They come into the world, and there it was.
Should, say, inordinate height be equally – pun, I swear to Gosh, not intended – elevated? Should there be an exalted “Tall of Fame”? Or, more accurately-put though arguably less amusing, “Hall of Tall”?
“I was just born that way.”
So were our most spectacular athletes.
Big and strong. Remarkable eyesight. Superior reflexes. Sure, they work like crazy, maximizing their abilities. But who knows? Maybe, as with A.D.D. in the other direction, “intensely focused” is also genetic. Enhanced by a demonic father, driving them mercilessly like a maniac. Or Tonya Harding-like mother. Although who knows again. Maybe “crazily driven” is genetic, as well.
What I am saying is there is a tradition of bestowing effusive adulation upon “The Greatest In The Game”, and who knows a third time,
Maybe they’re just lucky.
It is likely that, somewhere buried in all this, lies a sour-grapeish awareness that if there were a TV writers “Hall of Fame”,
I would not be included.
As objectively as I can be evaluating myself – and I have, on previous occasions, been wrong in both continual directions – I believe, considering my overall “body of work” – possibly genetically, possibly otherwise – tI would rank at the higher level of “Not Quite.”
So there’s that.
But there is also, I mean, “competition”, man. Does it have to be everywhere?
Your whole career, you work to the best of you abilities…
“And the award for ‘Working to the Best of your Abilities’ goes to…”
You never ever give up…
“And the award for ‘Never Ever Giving Up’ goes to…”
You are unstintingly committed to excellence…
“And the award for being ’Most Unstintingly Committed to Excellence’…
I got it! But really. Does everything have to be competitive?
“And the award for ‘Best Death’ goes to…”
I guess it does.