Of course, we regular Joes and Josephines often have a certain level of envy for the rich and the famous. And, for those who’ve attained lofty levels of both of those circumstances that often go hand in hand, the fame part of it begins early, which explains how two of the most recognizable sports figures, baseball’s Bryce Harper and basketball’s LeBron James, both appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated while still in their schoolboy years.
Despite my great interest in athletes, musicians and television and movie stars, I will admit a certain amount of jealousy, especially when I hear of the salaries commanded by those who entertain me.
However, as a firm believer in capitalism and the free market, I can hardly blame those who possess preternatural skillsets for earning whatever the market will bear. Now, having said that, when I do stumble on tidbits as to what some I don’t find particularly talented are paid, say, a Ryan Secrest, he of the $430 million net worth according to by my roommate Alexa, or that passel of Kardashians and their collective net worth of far north of a billion dollars, it does rankle me a bit. But, for the most part, I don’t let money resentments interfere with my sports or artistic entertainment.
At the end of December, I was reminded of the one reality that I certainly don’t envy about those who live under a spotlight. Like many, in an effort to draw the curtain on yet another year with which I’ve been blessed, I do read the year-end summaries, one of which is the yearly necrology that reminds us of the fact that all of us, the famous and the obscure, are bound by the same denouement, that this life will indeed end.
In my hometown paper, the article by the Associated Press writer Bernard McGhee, “Recalling influential people who died in 2019,” contained a month-by-month listing of those who departed. Before beginning the summation, I thought of the word influential in the headline. Surely, so many who left this world last year — say a parent, dear friend or the ultimate tragedy, a child — were not mentioned in McGhee’s article yet were so very influential to so many.
The other thought I always have when I read these necrological summations is how inadequate a few sentences are in explaining anyone’s time on earth and, in some cases, how unfair. And, certainly that point was made abundantly clear when, amidst mention of the passing of two of my favorites, comedian Tim Conway and the gravelly-voiced blues and jazz artist Leon Redbone, I came upon the name of Bill Buckner, a tremendously gifted baseball player when looking at the entirety of his career.
Buckner over his 22 years as a Major League player, that in itself noteworthy given the average length of a Major League career of 5.6 years, compiled 2, 715 hits and became noted as one of best bat-to-ball hitters of all time, striking out a microscopic average of just 20 times a year. Compare that last number to the modern day, when, during the 2019 season, seven players struck out 175 times! Additionally, Buckner was an outstanding defender, committing just 128 errors in 1,555 games played at first base.
And yet, when I read the final words under the month of May that summed up Buckner’s time on earth, here is what McGhee wrote:
“Bill Buckner, 69, a star hitter who made one of the biggest blunders in baseball history when he let Mookie Wilson’s trickler roll through his legs in the 1986 World Series.”
And, that, folks, shows the cost of fame for those that we so often envy. While our mistakes we make are so often private ones or, even when public, often ones that are easily forgiven and forgotten, there are those whose lives unfold under a spotlight so bright that, even in death, they are remembered in perpetuity for their worst moment, while the thousands of their best moments shrink back in the shadows.
And, so when it comes to the celebrities who seem to have it all, as far as I’m concerned, they can keep those fancy bank accounts and those moments when they collect an award and approach their banks of microphones to say to all that this is something no one can ever take away from them, while I’ll fly far under any radar and keep my not-so-proud moments locked in the vault.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.