2009-10-01 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

Take Heart! Some Good Guys Don’t Finish Last
By Charles Rogers

While we’re all getting in the doldrums as we see the various displays of crude, rude and downright uncouth examples of human character among us, and with a good, hard look at what it seems to be doing to our society, I have found that, perhaps, if we look a little harder, there may be a better side to it all.

I have to admit to my own feelings of being an optimist, in general. To my mind, although there is a consistent bending to become cynical, my glass is pretty much half full most of the time. With a bow to my colleague Neil Friedman and his excellent dissertation on the rudeness surrounding us lately (This Week’s Attitude — Courier: 9/24/09,), it is indeed disturbing to read and actually see examples of, at best, a lack of consideration and, at worst, a downright effort to be offensive within a mannerly community. We’ve all seen it; some of us have laughed at its crudity; some have come away with disdain for our fellow man; or ignored it. No matter, deep in our hearts we know that something’s not right when we see such examples blatantly displayed when a Congressman yells out during a Presidential speech or a tennis star throws her racquet to the ground with such force that it is bent in the middle.

As I said, though, when we become disturbed by the disturber, sometimes we have to remember there are the good guys too.

For instance: We all know who Derek Jeter is. At 35 years of age, he recently surmounted a baseball statistic by hitting more hits than a New York Yankee has ever done. If you know the name Lou Gehrig, you’ll know that the late Yankee first baseman made that record of 2,721 some 70 years ago. Two years later he died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” named after him because of his notoriety as one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived.

The record Gehrig made — the one that Jeter broke — is not the point here, though. What is important in this case is the character of the person who accomplished this feat. Many of us saw the way Jeter, always a gentleman, took his bows as he stood on first base at Yankee Stadium after breaking the record. The crowd was not applauding and praising him strictly for his accomplishment. There was something that distinguished him from so many others — his character. Here was (is) a guy you can tell your children to emulate. A man to whom the word “sportsmanship” is imbedded within him, along with “respect” and so many other positives.

Not only that, but he’s a nice guy.

Another nice guy, I’ll bet, although I never met him, is another sports figure — New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Just like a comic book hero or someone out of an old movie, he’s the kind of person who sits at the podium during a press conference after winning a game and is soooo humble, you expect to hear him say, “Aw, shucks” any minute. Your kids could emulate him too, y’know. Same thing goes for another sports figure — Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps, who, when he won seven (7!) gold medals in China, was so modest you’d have thought he was going to give them all away! Of course, he wound up in a little trouble when a paparazzo took a picture of him having a little “bong bash” during a party. Once again, though, he was so full of contrition afterwards he even made his ever-supportive mother happy again.

In another world, such as entertainment, we all know the saga of Kanye West. I won’t go into it because that’s probably what he wants anyway. Suffice to say he certainly won’t be remembered for his talent, but for making an ass of himself in front of millions back in 2009. On the complete other hand, you have Bill Cosby….Not that we should forget Bruce Springsteen, whose charities cost him $14 million a year and include everything from Amnesty International to the Special Olympics, the New Jersey Food Bank and even the New Orleans Music Clinic, among many others. Another obvious good guy!

When you talk about good character in the political world, it’s rather easy to pick out the rude, crude and uncouth ones, most of whom I can’t mention here because of space limitations, but how could I leave out Eliot Spitzer? Or, although he seems to be a helluva guy, Bill Clinton? Or Richard Nixon? Or….I could go on and on and on…….but then how could I show this to my grandchildren?

I know I’ve only lighted on a few figures here as examples of good character. They are out there, you know. Unfortunately, there are so many who had not been taught the basics of respect for their fellow man. It all comes down to the things we should have been taught from the beginning; the fundamental things we should be teaching our children now.

There are millions and millions more positive examples of truly good character, of course. You can find them in your nearest mirror. Honest you can….if you just take a look.

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