A few days ago, my sons and I went to the always-highly-anticipated annual Texas Rangers Fan Fest.
All too often, the high hopes that bring us the this event are not grounded in reality. But it’s fun, so we keep coming. This time, however, the excitement was heightened because the optimism was justified. After all, this team had gone farther than any Rangers team ever: the World Series. It’s like the Super Bowl of baseball. (Or perhaps the Super Bowl is the World Series of football).
Because these players were so successful, they were treated like heroes. My clan didn’t stand in line for autographs, but those in search of signatures waited for hours to get Matt Treanor, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, or Josh Hamilton to sign balls, gloves, or bats. These guys were hailed heroes. For a fan base which has not seen a lot of baseball success before 2010, the hero treatment for a World Series team is understandable.
But I also noticed the legendary Gaylord Perry, sitting there at a table with no line. Sure, his autograph was $20, but so was CJ Wilson’s, and the CJ line was at least 2 hours long. So why did CJ Wilson, who has been a starting pitcher for all of one year, get so much more love than Gaylord Perry? Before CJ was born, Perry had won a Cy Young in each league. He has struck over over 3000 batters. His status as a Hall of Famer should be enough to warrant a much higher demand. Simply put, he has accomplished much more than all the young guys on hand, combined.
A few minutes after I noticed Perry sitting by himself with barely any attention, I saw something even more astounding. If the ignorance of Perry is sad, this nearly qualifies as tragic. As I was waiting for my sons to take their turn running the distance from 3rd base to Home Plate (in case you are wondering, Jacob did it in 3.89 seconds, and Zachary in 5.17), an elderly man was there, probably watching his grandkids as they stood in the same line as mine. He must have been at least 80, and he was wearing a cap that said “World War II Vet”.
Everyone ignored him. People walked past him like they walked past any other person they didn’t know. I walked right by him myself. If I were a better person and better father, I would have thanked him, right in front of my boys, for his service to our country. But I didn’t. And I wasn’t alone in that.
OK, so it was a baseball event, not Veterans’ Day. Still, I couldn’t help but be struck by the way we have our heroes reversed. If all were right with the world, there would have been a long line of people to see the WWII vet, a medium line to see Gaylord Perry, and a few to bask in the presence of the youngsters like Hamilton and Wilson. But, like so many things in America, we have it all backwards.