There really should be a rule against writing a post when so many swirling thoughts and emotions are billowing around. It's Veterans Day and days like today always are sad because Dad was a veteran of World War II. He died in 1966 when this writer was of an age when his heroics were not understood. All this time later, there is no way to tell him how proud his son is for his service and his acts of duty for his country. While thinking about these things, an article passed by this writer's eyes concerning Carlos Beltran. The story was basically about him stating he would wave his no trade clause if the Mets really wanted to get rid of him. That was news in and of itself, but the end of the article talked about the $2 million he donated for a school and academy in his native Puerto Rico. The thoughts go together somehow in that none of us really know people the way we think we know them.
There was no way of really knowing Dad. What does a ten year old kid know? Dad was handsome and blond with an easy smile and a troubled life. He grew up in a blue collar home and his military service was his ticket to a better life, purchased through hell overseas and on too many bombing runs, some of which ended up with harrowing escapes from behind enemy lines. The service gave him a career in banking until, inexplicibly, he screwed it up with a stupid act and was never the same. This writer's older sister spent years being mad at him for his infidelities. Younger brother was angry that stupid decisions cost him his dad. This writer? Well, this writer is just grateful for the love of baseball that was passed down by sitting at his feet watching a ball game.
The thing is, none of us kids really know who he was. These few facts just mentioned are fragments of whispers and secrets slowly discovered. We remember the horrible fights and the divorce proceedings that were cut short by the car accident. We each have taken these fragments and created a construct of who we think the man was. But these few facts simply give us riddles because the same man that earned all those medals ended life broken with failure and loss. For all we know, the car accident was the better end for him. How do we know? Mom, in her late years now, is really not much help as she has chosen to gloss over the pain and the hurt that filled the end and cherishes the good times that preceded them. Again, we have all created a reality of a man that falls short of knowing who he was. What were his thoughts? How did he feel? What was important to him? All of it is conjecture.
These thoughts resonated for some reason reading about Beltran's good deeds for the kids in Puerto Rico. We who love to write about baseball create constructs about the players based on whispers and fragments of truths, don't we? Unless a Mets' beat writer or someone who covered him for his previous teams spent a lot of time with Beltran, there is no way for the rest of us of really knowing who he is as a man. But it is so easy behind a keyboard to create judgments that try to fit a player...a man...into a slot where we can either defend him or carve him up like a roasted chicken.
It's easy we think for the ball players because they get paid millions and are pampered. Because of that, we think they are fair game for our editorials on what kind of people they are. In retrospect, is that any more fair than one of us kids to place value judgments on a father we know nothing about? This writer is just as guilty as others. Hanley and B. J. are lazy. Manny is selfish. Braun and Youkilis are arrogant and hot headed. Yes, this writer has made those calls. While not writing specifically about Beltran, there has been thoughts that he has frittered away his big contract with the Mets and probably doesn't care.
We don't know these people. And since we don't, do we have a right to make such judgments? Most of us think so because they are in the public eye and the trade off of all that money and fame is the harsh pens of the scribes and the fans. But that is a cop out. If we really don't know somebody, then we should just shut up. Write about the performance. The numbers bear that out. Those are cold hard facts. They tell the truth about a player's effectiveness, but never anything about a player's soul.
These thoughts are mainly for the one who is writing them. Any of us that doesn't spend time in self-examination...again with the generalizations...Many of us that don't spend time in self-examination are condemned to rot in our minds and in our souls. If any of these ramblings touch anything in you, fine. If they don't, that's fine too. This Fan isn't preaching and this post is truly a selfish one.
Probably the final thought in this selfish post is to admit that Dad is missed terribly and there is a hole where he is supposed to be. And whatever the failures the man met toward the end of his life, the case of medals are cherished and proof of heroism far greater than this Fan could ever think of performing. Happy Veterans Day, Dad.
And as for Carlos Beltran, he has a new Fan who is now hoping he wins Comeback Player of the Year in 2011 and leads the Mets to the promised land.