Sunday, May 9, 2010

Where's my trophy?

Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher in baseball history to throw a shutout, when at 47 years, 170 days old, he threw a two-hit shutout tonight in a 7-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
There are two times in your life when you get a lot of credit for doing something ordinary: When you're very young or very old.
At this point, pretty much everything Jamie does qualifies him as "the oldest pitcher to do [whatever]" and it's a big story because he's 47 years old. If he was 27 and threw that identical ballgame it would have been great, but it wouldn't have been a story on ESPN Sports Center or a big splash on the sports page. And I certainly wouldn't be writing about it here.
Children get a lot of encouragement - some of it overdone - when they get involved in sports or some other activity. Their minor accomplishments are lauded and they get trophies for everything. I suppose it is a way to keep them motivated and reward them for trying. That's nice, but it's a little tiring to see a kid get a trophy for being at every game, even if the team would be better if he stayed home every once in a while.
The cycle of life comes around again when we're old. Every summer there is a story about some 90-year old graduating college. While we're congratulating him, we wonder why he was wasting his time. He gets special attention and rewarded for his "journey of personal enrichment." Meanwhile, he's probably the only old person who can hook-up a DVD player. He should get a trophy for that.
Likewise, every minor accomplishment that a 47-year old baseball player achieves is a headline story. When he faces another old pitcher, their ages are added up and we're supposed to be thrilled to hear that "they are a combined 94 years old." I'm not sure what that means, other than there are probably not enough good young players to push the old ones out.
The two times in our lives when we are coddled we're either too young to remember or too old to realize what's going on.

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