Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Theo Epstein is a Good Man

Ian Tasso is a Twitter buddy under the moniker of @Tasso_SPORTS. He is one of those follows that make Twitter such a lovely place to be sometimes. Tasso is an up and coming sports broadcaster who at a very young age already has radio award feathers in his cap and a tenure at The Boston Globe. He just landed a job as the play by play man of the Las Vegas Wranglers. He's one of those young people you can vicariously live through as he makes his dreams a reality. Anyway, Tasso tweeted a link to a piece in his former newspaper written by Theo Epstein to the fans of the Boston Red Sox. As a writer, it was an event that would have been missed if not for this wondrous age of social media. So thanks, Ian.

The piece in question can be found here and you are encouraged to read it in its entirety. As we often comment on the goings on in sports, we always lose sight of the fact that the people we are talking about are real people. That seems like an obvious statement as they are real people. But when these real people become successful or reach the top of their profession, we tend to create caricatures of them. Theo Epstein's caricature has been as the young wunderkind of the successful Boston Red Sox franchise. He's also painted forever by a gorilla suit. His caricature certainly changed this year from the preseason of ambitious moves as another jewel in his crown to the overlord of all that can go wrong with a team in the final month of a season.

The final result of that final month was a goodbye to Terry Francona and now the wunderkind takes his act to Chicago to see if he can end the drought of title success there like he did in Boston. Certainly, the inglorious end to the Red Sox season sent waves of criticism in Epstein's direction. And in his editorial to the fans, he owns the criticism fully casting the blame on himself. His honest assessment of the team's demise and his role in it are noteworthy and praiseworthy. This isn't a young man that will throw others under the bus. 

From his piece, we learn that he is a fan, just like us. That he lived his dream. That he had great support from his employers and that he had the time of his life. He notes the relationships he made while serving the team and he lists the reasons for his departure. His reasons all make perfect sense and he makes us understand why he left for Chicago. The piece was as human and honest as any bit of writing this author can remember.

The Fan has seen this Boston Red Sox - New York Yankees rivalry for decades. It used to be ugly. The two teams hated each other. But under Epstein and Cashman, his counterpart in New York, the rivalry has become one of mutual respect and gentlemanly. Of course, we fans continue with the hate part. But both teams have acted so professionally for so long that if you are a rational Fan, a grudging respect for the other team happens despite whatever antipathy you naturally have as that fan. This mutual respect is something admirable and comes straight down from the general managers who run each team.

As such, it was difficult to hate Theo Epstein at any time during his run as the Red Sox general manager. Oh certainly, there was some exultation that the normally super-smart franchise in Boston had a few moments of dumbness this past season. But deep inside, you have to know that the events that occurred snowballed from a dozen different directions that no one shovel could overcome. Others can assign blame for the Red Sox collapse, but not this writer. This writer knows it was just one of those things. But still, on a cursory level, there was some inner gloating at the humbling of that great franchise.

But again, Theo Epstein has reminded us that the franchise is run by people...by human beings. And these people are just like us except they have cooler jobs than we do.  Epstein's letter to the fans hit all the right notes for this Fan. He was humble and he was thankful. He was encouraging and he was excited about his new job. He paints a picture of a man who gave himself to his job in Boston and left the franchise in good hands with his successor. He felt it was time for a new challenge as well as a new perspective in Boston. No one can argue with his logic or his understanding. If anyone can have hard feelings toward Theo Epstein after the class he displays in this letter, such people are hard and narrow in their thinking.

Theo Epstein could not fake a letter like this. The writing and feelings he displays ring true and deep. His humility is refreshing. There will be more time later to analyse what Epstein is up against as the new leader of the Cubs. But for now, after reading such a letter, the only logical response is to root like crazy for Theo Epstein in his new job and hope like heck that he finds success there. Theo Epstein is one seriously good man.


Dan McCloskey said...

That was really great. Hard not to like that guy. Even on his way out, he writes as if he's still part of the team, then caps it by essentially admitting he's still a Red Sox fan. It would be really great to see him succeed in Chicago the way he did in Boston.

Thanks for highlighting this.

Anonymous said...

Well, Theo Epstein wanted a bigger challenge. But, it's a case og "be careful what you wish for, because you just might GET IT". It's about like the difference between a speed bump and climbing Mlount Everest without an oxygen mask.