A few days ago, I tweeted to Curt Schilling that I dreamt of his returning to Fenway as Manager. His tweeter account had been hacked and was spewing viruses to everyone, which was unfortunate, but beside the point. I guess you could say I got virtually smacked for daydreaming online – except that it was also kind of funny.
Yesterday, to my surprise, he sends out a new tweet insisting that he has no idea how this idea began circulating, but that he under no circumstances ever ever ever wants to manage a team. (I must have not been the only one joking about the job opening in Boston.) At some point in this conversation, the subject turned to “why would anyone want to deal with players and publicity and line up cards and all that nonsense? I just want to play the game!”
Valid point. Smart point. Managing isn’t playing, and there doesn’t seem to be that much of the Game Itself involved in “managing.”
Of course, I disagree.
Managers are only in the game a bit of the time – but their job is much more significant that the game being played that evening, or even the postseason.
Managers manage what the game, the team, and the players represent to the fans. Athletics, like art in all its forms, represents our dreams for the best of mankind. When I watch Dave Roberts steal a base, I’m not just cheering his beating the throw to second. I’m cheering the purity of form and execution of the act, plus the emotional representation of a massive comeback and an unwillingness to lose a game, despite significant odds.
At that moment, Dave Roberts isn’t just a baseball player. He’s the breathing embodiment of every kid’s dreams.
For the same reason, we idolize rock stars. They aren’t necessarily the best of mankind, but when they are onstage, playing one of four universal languages we all speak (the others being math, sex, and violence), that person becomes the symbol of being music and expression itself.
Unfortunately, the actual people who have these jobs end up carrying around a great deal more weight than just the expectations of winning games or selling records. They also have to deal with their fans forgetting that they are just people. The paparazzi follow them around; they are asked all kinds of questions about all kinds of things and their opinions or off the cuff comments are given disproportionate meaning. They lose privacy and gain reputations that they sometimes don’t deserve.
The manager bridges that gap for players and fans between the players’ real lives and the fans’ real dreams. The manager tries to create enough space for all of that to exist in one small stadium or park.
Maybe that’s part of why it’s so hard to find a good manager. It’s hard to navigate the space between cold real statistics and the power of “what if?”
I didn’t joke about Schilling becoming manager because I think he could handle player attitudes better than, say, Tito, but because, as the man who gave us the bloody sock, he understands how powerful the dream that the player embodies is, how much it really is never just a game. We need people who understand how essential symbols are to us in general to be the people who help the ones carrying that burden to live up to it.
- Boston Red Sox fire manager Bobby Valentine after one season – ESPN Boston (espn.go.com)
- Red Sox Announce All-Fenway Team, Which Truly Encapsulates Franchise’s Illustrious History (nesn.com)
- Rush vindicated: A Rock Hall of Fame berth for Canadian rock band – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
- Hip-Hop Groups Public Enemy, N.W.A. Nominated For 2013 Rock Hall Of Fame (allhiphop.com)
- Rush, Public Enemy, Deep Purple Nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (rollingstone.com)