History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. I can’t change my past. I can only learn from it. And what a past it was–filled with petty humiliations, awful decisions, regret. My biggest regret, my greatest embarrassment?
For about a year, I was a Counting Crows fan. I knew all the lyrics to "Round Here" and "Raining in Baltimore". I sang along, imitating Adam Duritz. I knew his every inflection. I mimicked his peculiar nasal whine perfectly. I identified with his passive-aggressive lyrics–somehow I saw myself (a scrawny high school freshman, whose longest relationship with a girl had lasted a week in junior high) in his sensitive evocations of failed relationships. I hailed him the genius of my experience, the poet of our age.
Perhaps, I lacked the experience which would have given me the proper perspective. It was only a few years later that I realized that the Counting Crows were not my thing. In fact, they sort of sucked (Sorry to any Crows fans out there. Just an opinion.). In the intervening time, I had listened to better music. I had lived more and understood the utter corniness that Adam Duritz was.
I mention my previous mistakes as a music listener because, in a way, they are comparable to my mistakes as a baseball fan. I would like to think that over the years I have become a smarter fan. In fact, I think the majority of us probably have become more astute fans in the past ten years. We live in the Bill James Post Money Ball Age–a time in which OBP is mentioned in every telecast, and brilliant sites such as Baseball Musings, Bronx Banter, WasWatching, Baseball Prospectus, River Ave Blues and the Baseball Think Factory rule the day.
But in the early days, I wasn’t as informed. And I made some mistakes. I am not as embarrassed about these as the Counting Crows worship, but they do remind me of a very simple lesson I tell the kids I teach: You learn through taking chances and making mistakes. So without further ado, here is one miscalculation I made as a youthful baseball fan:
Roberto Kelly was not a great player, or even a very good player. He was not better than Bernie Williams. Paul O’Neill turned out to be a much better player than he was. In fact, I was wrong when I called the Kelly-O’Neill swap the worst trade in the history of the franchise. Roberto Kelly was just not that special of a player. He was decent, but, for some reason, I believed he was the next coming of Rickey Henderson. In those days, I was less reliant on the stats (although I was a lover batting average and RBI), and made judgments based on what I saw. He was a speedy player. I remember liking his swing. He fit into his uniform well. Paul O’Neill, on the other hand, seemed a plodding slow poke, who was a little stiff. I was wrong.
But in fairness to me, I was not always wrong. In fourth grade, I discovered Eric B. and Rakim, and quickly surmised that Rakim was one of the greatest rappers of all time. That conclusion holds to this day. Sheer brilliance cannot be denied. Was it his genius or my genius as a listener? Similarly, I always recognized the value of Willie Randolph’s game, even if the stats I had access to the time (batting average and power #’s) did not conform to this insight. I knew he was better than those numbers said. My young eyes saw that.
What about you? Any music/baseball skeletons in your closet?