Friday, April 20, 2012

Born to Be Mild: Dick Clark, Jamie Moyer, and Ayn Rand

Reflecting on two news-worthy events this week -- the passing of Dick Clark and the win by Jamie Moyer, the oldest pitcher to ever record a victory -- only further deepens my belief that human greatness of the sort we see championed by the minions of Ayn Rand is antithetical to a real human life well lived.  It is human goodness, not human greatness that we should seek.

Dick Clark was known as "the eternal teenager" because of his seemingly unchanging boyish features and because of his association with rock and roll music.  But in a deep sense, the moniker fails.  Dick Clark never resembled a teenager.  Teens are rebellious and impulsive.  They push the envelope and intentionally try to insight disdain from their elders.  Dick Clark was forever a nice guy, gentle and mild.  American Bandstand and his Rockin' New Years Eve did allow new groups a bigger platform, but it was never threatening, it was always nice.  Dick Clark did not engage the rough and nasty nature of rock and roll; he smoothed it, polished it to a gleaming alabaster white, made it something that was able to be integrated into the respectable middle class ethos. 

It was because of this kind persona that he was so deeply loved.  We looked at Dick Clark and saw a model for humanity.  You could be fun and playful, caring and smart, gentle and likeable and be a success.  It wasn't about exploiting the mistakes of your enemies.  Dick Clark took the errors and fumbles of others and instead of beating people down with them, he showed them as delightful, fully human bloopers that you could claim and have everyone laugh along with you, not at you.  This is success by building others up, by seeing them as worthy companions, not by seeing them as competition that needed to be destroyed for your own advancement.

The other event last week was the victory by Colorado Rockies' pitcher Jamie Moyer at age 49 and a half, the oldest pitcher to ever win a game at the major league level.  In a league where star pitchers throw at or above 100 miles per hour, Jamie Moyer throws in the mid-70s -- at his fastest.  A change-up is a pitch that is meant to fool batters by being so slow that it throws off their timing.  Moyers' fastball is slower than many pitchers' change-ups.  but he has pinpoint control.  He keeps batters guessing by putting the ball in places they don't expect. 

Throwing a baseball is an incredibly unnatural motion.  We are not built for it and it puts strain on tendons and ligaments that damage the body.  The great pitchers, the Bob Fellers and Nolan Ryans blow batters away and so many who strive to be like them destroy their bodies seeking the sort of individual greatness that some would have us set up on a pedestal.  But Moyer took the other route.  He not only holds the record for oldest pitcher with a win, he also holds the record for most home runs surrendered.  No one has given up more long-balls than Moyer.  But he keeps pitching where others would not even imagine it as a possibility.  He is a professional baseball player who is older than half of the major league managers.  He remains among the elite athletes in all the world not by seeking to be great, but by working at being good. 

As we remember Dick Clark and honor Jamie Moyer this week, there is a deeper lesson for all of us.  These two should be held up as role models who did what they did because they did not try to elevate themselves by setting the world on fire, they did it with a thoughtful, concerted approach that led them to consistent good.