It’s no secret in my house that I like watching Andy Pettitte pitch. “Your beautiful Andy Pettitte is up,” Mr Brilliant always calls from the next room. “Your boyfriend is pitching,” he’ll tease me.
I always run to watch.
Today my beautiful Andy Pettitte is in the news—not for his pitching ability or for the uncanny way he looks like a Roman god in profile, his beak-like nose and cleft chin like those on ancient gold coins or in movies starring Michael Douglas’ dad wearing a toga and hiding secret messages in his not insignificant chin dent—no, not for those things. For using steroids instead.
An email from Mr Brilliant mid-afternoon today told the bigger, more terribly horrible story: “Knoblauch, too. So sorry.”
And recently, Marion Jones stripped of her Olympic medals, her name literally erased from the record books.
What has happened to us? Where have the Johnny Unitas’ of the world gone, relying on their sheer talent? Where is the “me” in a world of veneers, tummy tucks, bad eye jobs, cheating on exams, steroids?
Is ours such an outcomes-focused society that we have given up the journey, the space between here and there? Are we so intent on the gold and the endorsements and the money and the fame that come with it that we will do anything to get there—steroids, new faces that fit some societal norm of beautiful? Is lying a pandemic? In an era of such transparency as ours, do we honestly believe that no one will find out?
Are we all so mutually invested in a culture of white lies (and worse) that we can rely on others not calling us on it—a silent pact that ensures we won’t call them on their lies and that we can hardly recognize our own?
I’m reminded of my fourth grade teacher, the wonderful and amazing Mrs Smith. Once, in a fit of infatuation, I let a little red-headed boy named Bryan copy from my spelling test. Suddenly, there was a shadow on my long, thin strip of paper on which I had written “shoulder, power, turbulence.” I looked up to see Mrs Smith leaning over me, her head cocked to one side. She said only four words. That was all she needed to say. It’s all she ever needed to say. It’s what I would say to Chucky or Andy today: “Was it worth it?”
When I started writing 37days, I wanted to create a guidebook for living that I could leave behind for my daughters. Each story ends with a challenge—what would the challenge be from this baseball scandal? If there was a shorthand for the lesson, what would it be? The first thing that came to me was “Play fair.”
But, man, that started me down a whole other road, one paved mainly with questions:
What does it mean to play fair anymore, I wonder?
In a world constructed largely of unfair advantages (wealth disparities, digital and other divides, access to health care and education reserved for the few), what is fair? How do we get there?
We have enormous capacity for ignoring what is happening around us, whether in Darfur or in major league baseball or in the poorest areas of that city all flooding into the Superdome in New Orleans after Katrina. We’ve known for years what is going on in all these places—and yet, when a report surfaces—like the one today about steroid abuse or about the working poor in New Orleans—everyone acts surprised, outraged. I’m just sad.
As their spokesmen prepare statements and denials and more, I’m reminded that no one will question your integrity if your integrity is not questionable. As they parse the rules, I’ll remember Albert Camus’ statement that “integrity has no need of rules.” Our incessant rule-making and word-parsing in this country allows for significant abdication of personal responsibility. We must stop that nonsense, really. Let’s.
And as they shout denials, as Marion Jones did until she didn’t, I wonder if now is the time to step forward and say “I screwed up” rather than deny. It’s something I have some experience with, beginning at Hillcrest Elementary School:
“I’m going to Kim’s Wig Shop downtown and get her black, shiny pageboy hair in wig form. I’m going to speak out and be energetic and articulate and have something important to say. I’m going to pay attention to what’s going on in the world as if the fate of the world depended on me paying attention. I’m going to have a point of view and an opinion without waiting for other people to tell me what it is. I’m going to do the work I know I need to do, that I must do, that I’ve been waiting my whole life to do, without waiting for an audience. I’m going to sit up straighter and I’m going to make people hear me. I’m going to ask a lot more questions and I’m going to pay attention to the answers as if they really mattered. I’m going to really, really listen to people when they tell me their stories. I’m going to raise my voice if it needs to be raised. I’m going to lend my voice to people who have none. I’m going to figure out how to be an effective advocate for others. I’m not going to care anymore whether people like me when I speak my truth. I’m never going to ask for permission again. And, as Ensler said, ‘I am going to hold who I am in the face of anything.’”
“Know what you know,” she said, “see what you see, say what you say wherever you can say it.”
I can’t help but think that if we were as invested in competing against ourselves—being the very best ‘me” we could be—instead of investing so much in competing against others and competing for things, we would be playing more fair. The challenge would be how well we could do with what we have, not how well we could do with what we could buy. Kind of like presidential campaigns, come to think of it… We are under such pressure to succeed by other peoples’ standards. I wonder what would happen if we simply refused?
Did Roger Clemens, Chuck Knoblauch, and Andy Pettitte use performance-enhancing drugs? I don’t know for sure. But I do know that if they did, it wasn’t worth it. Not by a long shot. Their truest test comes now.
~*~ 37 Days: Do it Now Challenge ~*~
Know what you know, see what you see, say what you say wherever you can say it.
And play the absolute fairest you can in an unfair world. (Work to make it fairer while you’re at it, won’t you?) Otherwise, how do we live with ourselves?