Friday, May 23, 2014

Dark thoughts.

There was an old ballplayer who I was thinking about yesterday. His name was  Pete Reiser--Pistol Pete, and many people, including such baseball savants as Leo Durocher, believed he could have been one of the immortals.

In his first season for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941, when he was just 22, Reiser led the league in batting, doubles, triples, runs scored and slugging percentage. He finished second in votes for most valuable player.

Unfortunately for Reiser, that first season was the high-water mark of his checkered career. The war interrupted, of course, but Reiser's real downfall was his utter inability to slow down. He literally ran into walls to catch balls in the outfield. Along the way he racked his body with injuries, concussions and shoulder injuries. As Durocher said about him, "He had everything but luck."

Reiser fractured his skull running into an outfield wall and still made his throw back to the infield. Another time he was temporarily paralyzed from a collision with a wall, another time he was given his last rites on the field. In total, he was carried off the field on a stretcher 11 times. A record, if you count records for these kind of things.

I think of myself as something like the Pete Reiser of advertising. I don't slow down when I get to walls. I don't save myself for later. I go full tilt.

This, of course, is out-of-step with how things are arranged today. Today we have an antiseptic approach to most of life--and we keep most of life at arm's length. We are told by pop psychologists and the homilies people I despise post on their social media outlets to "go with the flow," to "let things go," to "take it easy."

We're never supposed to be like Reiser and crash into walls.

But what are walls for if not crashing into?

Why try if you're not trying your hardest?

Why dip your toe in the water if not to make waves?

This attitude has probably cost me some years in my career and maybe some years off my life. Reiser retired a broken man at 33 and died at just 62.

But he died knowing he'd given his all.

He wasn't a spectator.

He tried.

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