Finding Misery in Other People’s Joy
By Frank J. Colagiovanni
On Monday afternoon, the day after the Boston Red Sox won the American League Pennant, I was clicking through a few stories on the local newspaper web sites. I was at the game, had a great time and wanted to read about it in an effort to keep the good feelings going. In the Boston Herald, I came across a letter to the editor that I read, re-read, and then read a third time.
The writer, a woman from Brookline, Massachusetts, opens her missive to Red Sox fans-let’s be clear about that-with a statement so obtuse, so filled with arrogance and condescension that it actually took my Red Sox “buzz” known a notch.
“Each October (barring the anomaly of 2004), as I see hubris and idol-worship shatter around me, I wonder: Will Sox fans put all that precious time and energy to better use, such as by working to help save our environment, improve our educational system, stem urban violence or stop global genocide?”
Reading this, I wonder — are these mutually exclusive? If I devote precious time and energy — and don’t forget money — to enjoying the Red Sox, do I do so at the exclusion of everything else? Does the time I spend at Fenway in October — or in July for that matter — negate the time I spend volunteering? Does the writer spend all her time devoted to the causes she listed?
And then she continues:
“Will they realize that big money rules every aspect of baseball? Will they (and especially, their kids) realize that second or third place still matters? That the “World” is actually the North American Series? That social workers, teachers, health care providers, community organizers and First Responders are the true heroes and heroines of society?”
And while the money involved with baseball is staggering, should that chase all enjoyment from it? If a ticket for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, or the Boston Ballet — all well endowed organizations to be sure — goes for a price the writer deems too high, does that change the sound of the music? Does that make it ruled by big money? The Kroc family donated $200 million of the McDonald’s restaurant fortune to National Public Radio; is NPR ruled by “big money?” Wang computers donated the money for the Wang Center. Bill and Melinda Gates have given millions upon millions to different organizations-and you can’t get much more “big money” then them.
The Boston Red Sox have, over the past 50 plus years, donated and facilitated the donation of millions to fight childhood cancer through the Jimmy Fund. I’d call that big money.
And the fact is, it is a World Series. The best players from around the globe come to the United States to play in the Major Leagues for the very reason that this is the summit of the sport. She might notice that David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima don’t have Hyde Park Boston accents. The guy with that accent is Manny Delcarmen, drafted by the Red Sox out of West Roxbury high school. The Red Sox, like most teams, are made up of the very best, no matter where they come from.
There’s nothing wrong with second or third place. Second and third still matter, but that doesn’t mean that striving for first is a bad thing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you still need to try-just ask every Red Sox team from 1918 through 2004. Isn’t that a good lesson for kids and adults?
As for the notion that enjoying the Red Sox represents precious time and energy that should be put to better use, how much time? Is there an equation? Who gets to make that determination? How much time does she spend? I know for a fact that there in the stands over the past few nights there were there the everyday “heroes” the writer speaks of. In the first few seats of my row were a teacher, a pee-wee hockey referee, and a boy scout leader. A few sections over sat a Boston firefighter and former active duty Unites States Marine; he likely would have been joined by one of his childhood friends, but that guy had to go to work, as a police office in Roxbury.
These fans are all regular folks who give and have given their time and energy to do the very things she wonders about. Do those people who work to save our environment, improve our educational system, stem urban violence and stop global genocide deserve to enjoy themselves?
The arrogance it takes to deride people, good people, for finding enjoyment is a game speaks a lot more about the writer than about the people celebrating in the stands or cheering in front of their televisions.
Perhaps she should do a little less wondering and open her eyes to her own hubris.
Frank J. Colagiovanni is an award-winning freelance copywriter and contributing writer for Bread and Circus.