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Posts Tagged ‘Decency’

Why Bryce Harper is a Hero and Baseball is Just a Game

July 8, 2013 1 comment
(Photo By John McDonnell, Washington Post)

(Photo By John McDonnell, Washington Post)

Baseball players can be jerks. Sometimes they ignore fans or practically snarl at them or walk right by when approached for an autograph or a photo. And talent is not a good indicator one way or the other of what kind of a human being a player is.

Bryce Harper has immense talent that is self-evident. A 20 year-old with the maturity of a 35 year-old in his approach to the game, he has an equal maturity as a just plain-old decent human being.

The picture above taken by Washington Post photographer John McDonnell (who used to work for the Loudoun Times Mirror eons ago) features Bryce shaking hands with Little League player, Gavin Rupp. Gavin has an inoperable tumor in his brain. Prior to his terminal prognosis, he had undergone surgery and other treatments and still kept his starting shortstop position on his youth travel team.

Word of Gavin’s situation reached the Washington Nationals and so it was that last Friday with the San Diego Padres in town, the club invited Gavin, his parents and his siblings to the ballpark. As Gavin’s family watched San Diego take their batting practice swings, Bryce Harper emerged from the dugout. Harper asked if they wanted to go out on the field. And they did. For a full hour, Bryce engaged the young man, took the lead in drawing him out and making him feel welcome and comfortable, gave the kid the cap off his head and treated him with the greatest dignity. Ball players don’t do this sort of thing for sixty minutes. Here’s The Post’s Adam Kilgore with the full story.

And then came July 4th. Bryce Harper lives in a penthouse apartment in my building in Arlington. He’s a rare sight. He drives his white Mercedes with the Bam Bam 34 plates directly into the garage, gets in the elevator to his floor and the only people who ever run into him are those folks who just happened to select the same elevator.

Every 4th of July, the management of the apartment building holds a little party for the tenants in the common ground with music and cotton candy, popcorn, burgers and dogs. And there he was this year, in a t-shirt, shorts and red sneakers, holding his sister’s brand new baby in his arms, hanging out with his girlfriend, family and a couple of other friends while his chocolate Labrador retriever, Swag, rolled in the grass. There were about 300 people at this event. Everyone knew Bryce was there. And everyone left him alone. Bryce, after the Nats had played the traditional July4th 11am game, felt comfortable enough to hang out with the residents and the residents minded their own business and just let him be.

Finally, Harper and girlfriend left the common ground, walking to a nearby restaurant and it was there he was finally approached- not by a resident, but by a casual fan walking down the street who happened to be wearing a Harper #34 uniform shirt. I overheard the exchange. “Oh my God- you’re Bryce Harper!” Bryce stopped and smiled. He immediately posed for a cell phone camera shot and shook the fan’s hand before moving on. He really does love the fans. At the player’s parking lot at National’s ball park, they’ll yell to him as he’s making his way to the white Mercedes and he waves and calls back at them with an ear-to-ear grin.

I’ve had heroes in my life. Mickey Mantle was one of them. He was Bryce’s hero too. Bryce wears #34 because the numbers 3 and 4 add up to 7- Mantle’s number. But my Mickey was deeply flawed. The first one, late in his life, to confess he had squandered one of the great baseball careers of all time, drinking and partying with the likes of Whitey Ford and Billy Martin. We all loved Mickey for his raw skill and seeming humility but in the end it turned out the bright lights were too much for the kid from Oklahoma. Too much pressure. Too much fear he would die young like many of the men in his family including his father. Too much, too soon.

Harper has none of this baggage. He has a large and supportive and healthy family. He is the definition of clean living. And he wears all that fame and talent with a great humility off the field, a great arrogance on it- the way it should be.

It is so nice to have a hero again. A guy you can look up to not just for his stats or hall-of-fame potential- but for his decency and kindness and understanding that while damned important, baseball, is part of life, not all of it.

Tragedy in Afghanistan

Uncle Sam Crying by James Corcoran


In a span of just a couple of months, we have now seen video of American soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters, American troops mistakenly desecrating the Koran and causing riots and now a deeply disturbed U.S. Army Sergeant appears to have systematically murdered women and children in two rural southern Afghanistan villages.

This is not us. This is not America. This is not our military. We are not represented by these acts and we shouldn’t be defined by them. But they do speak to the horrors of war and how it breaks people and causes them to behave in ways that are completely antithetical to our values. We are the good guys- not….this.

When I have met and talked to members of our armed forces, I am always impressed by their civility and decency in big ways and small. It’s always the guys in their desert uniforms on the Metro at the Pentagon station who are the first to give up their seat to a pregnant woman or an elderly person. Those were U.S. Navy men and women who rescued Iranian sailors from Somali pirates a few weeks ago. How many acts of unpublicized kindness have been committed by our troops in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan? I would venture to say thousands.

Our fighting men and woman have rebuilt schools, distributed food to the hungry, and given hugs to children orphaned by war. And that’s when they’re not putting their own lives on the line as the target of a sniper or an IED placed on a roadway. But it is hard when confronted by the acts of broken people, hardened and twisted by tour after tour after tour of duty- to not feel a deep sense of sadness and shame over the kinds of events that have occurred in Afghanistan recently.

Polls show Americans are weary of war. Solid majorities now think Afghanistan is not worth the cost in blood and treasure. Certainly, history has taught the British, the then Soviet empire, and now us, that taming this country by military occupation is a fool’s errand at worst, and indescribably difficult at best.

How we extricate ourselves from this decade-long conflict is complicated. It was in Afghanistan that the Taliban gave shelter to Al Qaeda as the terrorist organization trained to wage war on civilized society. It’s the Taliban who have oppressed women in ways unimaginable to most of us.

It’s up to our leaders to figure this out because, surely, they are now seeing the current course seems to be completely counter-productive to our stated goals of building trust with the Afghan people so that we can train their military and their government to do what they must eventually do for themselves.

Loose talk about military action in other countries ought to be sobered by events of the kind we have seen lately in Afghanistan. There is nothing glamorous or magical about the military option. And maybe for the sake of our own brave men and women who’ve sacrificed so much over the past ten years- and for our own collective sanity and self-respect- maybe war ought to once again, become the last possible option- and no longer, instinctively, the first.