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 not me!"
"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 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
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.
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.
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
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
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