First, a disclaimer: This is not going to be about baseball. I know that few of you share my level of enthusiasm for America’s pastime and are less than excited by my posts that deal with that wonderful sport. So, to keep you reading despite the initial lines regarding baseball, this disclaimer.
That being said, did you hear this week about Vin Mazzaro, the Kansas City Royals’ pitcher who, in his 2011 debut last week gave up 14 runs in only two and a third innings of work? The performance was a record-setter for futility and has been compared amongst the worst pitching performances of all-time. The next day, the sports writers had a field day, appearing to take pleasure in Mazzaro’s folly. And this bugged the “you know what” out of me.
Look, we all have bad days… days when we feel like we can’t do anything right, whether it be argue a motion, find the missing thirty-two cents, or land the client. Sometimes, we just need to chock it up to life’s mysteries and hope that tomorrow is better. In fact, we know tomorrow is better because we trust in ourselves and in our abilities. And we also hope that when we have these bad days, no one is watching.
As a baseball fan I understand the fascination with success and failure, winning and losing. I ate up all of the literature on Mazzaro’s outing; I read everything I could about the statistics of his performance and how it compared with the worst of the worst. But then I thought about it from another perspective. Vin Mazzaro is a professional baseball player who made it to the highest level, playing in the major leagues. How many other people get to do that?
Think of it this way: For Vin Mazzaro to have made it to the major leagues, he had to have been the best, if not one of the best, baseball players in his little league, his high school, his town, and (if he went) his college. Then he got drafted and reported probably to the low minor leagues where he worked his way up through the ranks, succeeding every step of the way, establishing himself as a dominant pitcher in the organization. It took not only a lot of luck to get to the major leagues, but also a tremendous amount of determination and talent. Doesn’t the dude deserve some respect? Our society is so gossip-oriented, taking such pleasure in the foibles and failures of others, that we forget all the steps that people had to take to get to that one spot where they landed on the gossip-mongers’ map.
Do you remember the show The Practice? There was a recurring story-line of a down-on-his luck attorney who came often to seek the counsel of the African-American attorney, Eugene Young. In fact, the story was that this attorney had never won a case. As an attorney, when I think back to this story-line, I think about one thing– no matter his record, no matter his success or failure, he was an attorney and he had to be pretty darn good to get that far. Let me tell you first-hand– the BAR exam is NOT EASY! This character who had never won a case still had to go to law school (whether at a top-tier law school or a correspondence course) and still had to take and pass the BAR exam. Doesn’t the guy deserve some respect just for that? And don’t we feel guilty taking pleasure in his pitifulness?
I cannot agree more, though, that this respect can be fleeting depending upon how the professional comports himself/herself and respects his/her accomplishment. We have all met and dealt with people who we feel had no reason for ever being put on this earth, let along on a crash course with us. We deal with them and then hope to never hear their names again, with the knowledge that the respect we have for what we accomplished is not shared by the other side. For example, the attorney who plays all of the games and consistently takes positions that are inconsistent with his client’s best interests. Sure he had to suffer through law school and the BAR exam and he deserves some respect for that, but the fact that he doesn’t respect his accomplishments and is willing to disrespect the law is enough to diminish whatever respect existed.
So what does this all mean? Well, the world would be a better place if we considered the background and struggles our fellow professionals endured to get to their current position and treated them with the respect they deserve, until, at least, they do something to lose that respect. But what it also means is that on those days when nothing goes right and it looks like a dark cloud may hang over us indefinitely, we need to go back to basics and start at the beginning. Think back to the hard work that you already put in to this, the education you received, the qualifications you have and accreditations you’ve earned… thinking back on all of that, you seem pretty damn special.
Think Vin Mazzaro perceives himself as special? He better, despite the fact that after his disastrous performance last week he was immediately sent back down to the minor leagues. What more of a blow to one’s self-respect can there be? Not only will he go down in history as having one of the worst pitching performances in baseball history (which as of December, 2008 totaled over 11 million games according to answers.com); but he must now wonder when he will get the chance to step back onto the major league mound and redeem himself. Will he be the Final Jeopardy question of who had the worst pitching performance in Major League Baseball history?
Or will he laugh at this when he gets enshrined in Cooperstown? I hope he gets his chance to laugh.