I had it all figured out this week. It was a two-movie weekend and I was going to show you how “Zombieland” and “The Queen” were so similar. What, you may ask, are the similarities between a horror-comedy about a country taken over by zombies and a serious drama about how Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II dealt with Great Britain’s trauma upon the tragic death of Princess Di? Well, I can only tell you that my analyses of these two films would have put the “Caine/Hackman Theory” to shame.
But alas, things changed. A day at the LA Times Festival of Books will do that. It surely could be the intellectual’s Disneyland. Books, books, and more books everywhere. And all kinds: mysteries, romance, fantasy, religion, big publishers and independent publishers… (and a great book about networking by my friend, Dr. Bill Saleebey, called “Connecting: Beyond the Name Tag”; go pick it up…)
So what did all of that mean to me? It made me feel, in some respects, unfulfilled. Sure, I have had accomplishments in my life; in fact, everywhere I look I see accomplishments. But being at the Book Festival raised my “awe” factor. I am in awe of people who write, who have the discipline and the creativity to craft stories out of mere words, who can paint pictures and convey emotion by putting letters on paper.
You see, I always loved to read, but I never thought about writing. And I can give you two words why not. They were “creative” and “writing.” Whenever I thought about learning how to write or taking a writing class in school, I was faced with those two words and I would find something else. I was especially scared by that first word… “creative.”
In case you don’t know me well, there are many words that can be used to describe me. Without being conceited, I would say some of those include personable, sarcastic (guilty!), funny, intelligent… but you would never, ever, EVER, say I was creative. And I am ok with that. Look, you come to grips with your lack of talent when you get kicked out of the junior high school Senate because you can’t color inside of the lines. So I always believed… no, I always KNEW that I was not creative. I never really had an interest in it to begin with. Color inside the lines? Forget it; I’ll just scribble/scrabble to finish the stupid project so that I can get on to things that are really important like reading. So I always correlated creative writing with being able to create pictures in my head. And without being able to color, how could I create pictures in my head?
So when the opportunities came up to take creative writing courses, I would say no thank you. And I regret it now. I feel like I missed out. Is it too late for me? No, of course not. But I was meditating on it today, while walking through the Festival, what it would be like to sit in a room all day and just write. (Ok, I didn’t really “meditate,” I just kind of thought about it for like a second or two.) Write whatever comes to mind. Write what I think is funny. Just me and a computer. Me and my thoughts. Me and those 26 letters, with which I could craft my opus, the Great American Novel. And not only to do that, but to be so good at it, so talented, that other people get enjoyment out of it.
That is a talent. And one which I would enjoy learning if I have. But in the meantime, I am going to be supportive of anyone else who wants to explore their talent. When my daughter gets a sticker book and says that she wants to put all of the stickers on one page, who am I to stifle her creativity? There is something liberating about taking your thoughts and putting them down on paper. Of course, then the self-editing comes in and the concern that the words that are on paper won’t mean to other people what it means to me. But it is better to do it and find out, then it is to always wonder if there was ever any talent there at all.
This week, I am going to try to create something… And I will do it with my words, not crayons.
I will answer all of your questions:
No, I am not in Canada on a fishing trip;
No, I did not get arrested; and
No, I did not call my grandmother in tears asking her to send $4,800.00 for bail money.
Sounds funny, right? I certainly saw some humor in it when my 86-year old Grandma called me from the bank to verify that I wasn’t actually in Canada. Seems that she got a call at 8:00am Thursday morning claiming to be me, in tears, asking for her to send $4,800.00 to get me out of jail. Come on Grandma, when have you known me to go fishing?
Well, a crisis was averted and, aside from Grandma being embarrassed and amped up that I was in trouble, all was well. Until my Dad got the phone number of the guy who called Grandma to ask for the money. I will preface the following with a proviso: I don’t know exactly what was said or the details by which the phone number was obtained. While it is odd that the scam-artist actually gave Grandma the phone number, what is more odd is that the chap actually answered the phone the next day when my Dad called. Any guesses of what he said?
In a nutshell… it was unflattering to Jews. Apparently the con man, after confirming that my dad was Jewish, explained to my father that I was already in the gas-chamber, that Hitler was coming for me, and that brutal things were going to happen to me. I never knew Canadians (those loveable people from America’s Hat) would be so unfriendly!
After hearing all of that (and having Dad explain to me that while he didn’t remember specifically what he said in response it involved colorful language of the four-letter type) I immediately took stock of my comfort-zone and noticed something very distressing: I had grown complacent. I had allowed myself to get comfortable in my freedoms and had lost sight of the fact that there are people out there who hate me for no reason other than because of my heritage and beliefs. This is America, the land of the free; but that means the freedom to be mean, to be hateful, to be intolerant.
And the timing of it all was so interesting. Just this past Saturday there was a White Supremacist Rally at LA’s City Hall and last week Jews remembered the six million who died in concentration camps for Holocaust Remembrance Day. It has been 65 years since World War II ended, but it would be naive to think that hatred has been eliminated. If anything, with the power of the internet, it is easier to spread the word and recruit minions. (Two things about the rally are amusing: first, the White Supremacists had a permit to hold the rally; and second, the only people to be arrested at the rally were the anti-White Supremacist protesters. The issue of the White Supremacists obtaining a permit to hold a rally to spew hatred is for another discussion.)
Well, all of that is just to say one thing. While I can wish that my children will not know hate, it is simply not going to happen. It took a con-man trying to scam my Grandma to remind me of that.
By the way, in case you caught the dichotomy in the last paragraph, I did mean to state “my children” instead of “my child.” Brooklyn is going to become a big sister in October. I hope Brooklyn and her brother/sister do not know hate.
I hope you won’t think ill of me, but I have given this a lot of thought and I have a confession to make. I would have considered taking steroids. I would not have discounted it outright.
I won’t ask you to condone the use of steroids, but I would be comfortable with my decision and think I can at least express it so that you might accept my position.
From the time I started T-Ball, I had wanted to play professional baseball, like millions and millions of other children all over the world. But when you’re in T-Ball, you don’t think about the money or the fame. You think about putting on the uniform and playing at the highest level. People talk about how steroids have ruined the purity of the game. I won’t comment on that. I will, however, caution that the purity of the game is viewed with rose-colored glasses. No one knows what previous generations of ballplayers did to get ahead, whether it be throwing spitballs or sharpening spikes, so I think it may be disingenuous to argue for the purity of the game.
For every player who makes it to the big leagues, there are thousands who don’t; so many of them toil in the minor leagues, never getting a shot to live out their dream. I never thought about baseball as a career. I thought of it as a fantasy. A fantasy to put on the uniform, smell the grass, and step onto the field in front of thousands of people. So for the chance to live out a fantasy, even just for one day, would it be worth it? Would I be able to live with myself, knowing that I had cheated to get to that level?
And the answer is, maybe. Who gets the chance to live out a dream like that? If the difference between living out the dream and not was taking steroids only once, how could it not be worth it? Now I do have a problem with steroids for two reasons, and this is why. First, the most noteworthy people who took steroids were those who already had immense talent. Without pointing fingers, the people who have been identified as having taken steroids were superstars to begin with. So their taking steroids was just the rich getting richer. That was a slap in the face of the purity of the game. These people already were playing at the highest level; what was to gain by taking steroids other than to stoke their own ego.
Second, there are other people who took steroids to get paid and I don’t agree with that at all. That is tantamount to spitting on the game. Baseball players already get paid way too much; if you were already getting paid and took steroids to get paid more, you are just plain greedy.
Let me give you another example. How would you feel about me if I told you that I told a client to lie while on the witness stand because I knew we couldn’t win without the client lying and if we won the client would give me a huge bonus? Wouldn’t that be unethical? Wouldn’t I be proving all of those nasty jokes they tell about lawyers?
So I go back to me as a baseball player. I never considered baseball for a career; I thought of it as a privilege and an experience that so few people get to have. And if I was that close to reaching the big leagues, to live the professional baseball player life for one day, to travel with the team for one road trip, to take batting practice, run the bases, step out onto that field… if I could do all of that just once and to do so I would have to take steroids one time, I would be hard pressed not to do it. I didn’t say it definitely, but I would really think hard about it.
Of course, that is easy for me to say, considering I am as clean as clean can be and have led an uneventful and non-experimental life thus far…
I can say this now with little compunction because my baseball ship has sailed; the Dodgers will NOT be calling me to suit up. Also, I don’t think that there is anything else in the world that I could do that would cause me to think twice about breaking the rules. I just don’t have it in me. But to live out a little boy’s dream?
Members of the media:
First, I would like to thank you all for attending this press conference. I know that Dodger fans all over the world are counting on me to take this team to the next level.
I would like to thank ownership for believing in me and seeking me out to do this job. I know that there are many people qualified for this job and it is extremely flattering that ownership set their eyes on me and sought to make me the next General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, for the business at hand. I would like to announce that my first act as General Manager of this storied franchise is to make a personnel move that might have a dramatic impact on the future of this team and will shock Dodger fans everywhere.
I hereby resign as General Manager.
I know that millions of people will be outraged by the boldness of my resignation, the proverbial biting of the hand that feeds you. How many millions of people wish they could be in my shoes, with the belief that they can bring a World Championship to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988? (For those of you who are not sure, Anaheim is NOT Los Angeles.)
But I must confess that the best thing for the Los Angeles Dodgers is to hire someone else. I am not a good choice for General Manager and here is the reason: I love this team too much.
I have come to realize that to be an effective General Manager, you cannot be emotional and you cannot be a fan. And I am both; I love the Dodgers and I am a huge fan.
To be a good General Manager you have to remember one thing: baseball is a business. Sure it is a kids’ game played by adults, but it is still a business. And like all employees of a business, you need to perform. What have you done for me lately is a common theme. I still get goose-bumps when I walk into the Dodger Stadium. I still get goosebumps when I think about my heroes who have worn the Dodger uniform. They are part of my family, which is my downfall. Trade Russell Martin? No way. Bench Manny Ramirez? Are you kidding? Send Matt Kemp down to the minor leagues? Can’t do it. I am too passionate about my team. I am still too much of a fan, too blinded by my love for the Dodgers to believe that any one of those players could be detrimental to the team’s success.
As many of you know, before ownership asked me to be the General Manager, I was a practicing attorney. I found that as an attorney I was better able to separate myself from the passions of my clients. It was easier to be clinical, to be logical. To think with my brain and not my heart. And that is always a challenge. The clients all want to convince you of their desire, to make you believe that they are on the side of right, and to create within you an emotional tie to their plight. But that is the challenge, to appear motivated by the clients’ desires while sustaining an emotional distance so as to maintain lucidity for the task at hand. It is a delicate balance but one that I was able to accomplish in the practice of law.
I would not be so capable should I remain as the General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And you know what, I don’t want to have to maintain that balance. I enjoy being a fan; in fact, I love it. I love celebrating the team’s successes and mourning its failures. I love rooting for its players and thinking that they can do no wrong, that they are super-heroes with incomparable strengths and skills. I truly believe that the baseball experience and that of being a Dodger fan would suffer greatly should I be forced to think with my brain and not my heart.
I enjoy thinking with my heart. I enjoy being irrational with my expectations of greatness. I enjoy taking it personally when people think my team is not as good as I believe it to be.
I enjoy… no, I LOVE, being a Dodger fan. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
IT’S TIME FOR DODGERS BASEBALL!!!