Why Not Me!

The Amazin' Grace

&

Heroic Humility

Of

Darryl Strawberry

 

By Carter B. Horsley

Darryl Strawberry is a New York Yankee baseball player who has had a troubled career both on and off the field.

In October, 1998, he underwent surgery for colon cancer and at a press conference a few days later he remarked that many people who confront misfortune ask, "Why me?"

"Why not me!" Strawberry declared.

"Why not me!" is not a whine, of course, but an anthemic rebuttal of selfishness and egocentrism, a remarkably succinct and, in this instance, moving, assertion of personal catharsis.

What a lovely and brilliantly simple thought! What a moral mandate and imperative!

Darryl Strawberry's team won the World Series and had proudly worn his number 39 on their caps in a gesture of solidarity with their ill mate.

Surely, he must have been happy at the team's four-game sweep and place in history as the winner of most "world" championships by a professional team in a major sport. (It was the 24th World Series to be won by the Yankees.)

Strawberry's statement was full of, indeed, overflowing with, grace.

Grace, that damn elusive quality of goodness, nay, perfection, is about soaring above expectations, effortless exertion, indefinable exactness, and exultation.

It elates.

It awes.

It indelibly changes us.

It honors and humbles.

It pollutes the prosaic with the contagious magic of quality: once infected, forever sensitive.

As a Brooklyn Dodger fan, I hate the Yankees, of course. As a curmudgeon, I dislike professional athletes who do not set good examples for idolizing youth.

I have not been a Darryl Strawberry fan. I am now and for the rest of my life.

"Why not me!" is far, far nobler than turning the other cheek, or charitable good works. It is the recognition that we are all equally innocent, all equally deserving, all human.

Charity too often is condescending. We are all unfortunate. We are mortal, but our thoughts can be immortal, as Darryl's is. His notion is ascendant.

It is, of course, often good to ask, "Why me?" Introspection is usually revealing and provocative.

It is, also, better to state, not ask, "Why not me!" The extension of the self to deal with others is an adventure into the nature of our social being, the being that is the most meaningful, even if it is only to discover our individuality.

In mid-April, 1999, Strawberry got into trouble with the police for cocaine possession and other charges. It is sad that he has not conquered all his problems, especially since his illness generated considerable media attention to him as a role-model. While one does not condone his less than stellar behavior as a role-model for young baseball fans, and others, such disapproval in no way detracts from his noble attitude in his previous crisis. It merely proves that he is human and that humans are not perfect, sometimes doing beautiful things and sometimes things stupid and wrong.

One wishes this dashing home-run basher more than a modicum of luck in dealing with his personal woes. His career is at stake, again. Celebrity brings responsibility and often torment. The public often demands too much of its celebrities and sometimes not enough. Strawberry has proven he can rise to the occasion before. Hopefully, he may again. Moderate voices can only hope that time can heal his many wounds. It is not easy, of course, to be moderate when tempted with greatness, or whatever, but patience and sympathy always help.

In early August, 1999, Strawberry appeared as a designated hitter for the Columbus Clippers, a Yankee farm team and singled twice and stole a base in his three at-bats, which, according to a report in The New York Times "drew a loud mix of cheers and boos." The article quoted Strawberry as saying that his arrest in April was because of depression over not making the major league roster, which resulted from his trying to return too soon from his cancer treatments.

Strawberry's troubles continued, unfortunately, with more problems in 2000, and in November, 2000 press reports indicated that he admitted to a judge that if it were not for his children he wanted "to die."

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