Fear This Face: Mediocrity Is America’s New National Pastime
For those of you who’ve ever seen the Pixar film The Incredibles, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the scene where Mrs. Incredible (a.k.a. Elastagirl) is lecturing her son about showing off in school.
“Everyone is special, Dash,” she tells her son.
To which he replies, “Which is another way of saying that NO one is.”
This strikes me as a fairly prophetic view of a Barney the Dinosaur America that is incapable of evaluating its children beyond patronizing them with rosy platitudes.
Everyone is generally good at something, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is the best at something, as it is no guarantee that you’re even the best among your small group of friends.
Every success and failure is an important part of growing up, and ultimately shapes our interests, character, and reasonable ability.
Sport is often thought of as a great training ground for these growing qualities, because it demands a level of holistic understanding, not only in regard to ones own abilities, but in the strengths of others, teamwork, and leadership, and can engender a sense of place in the larger scheme of things.
Sport, in essence, is a microcosm of life, particularly American life, where excellence is supposed to be rewarded, and nepotism is not the only mechanism conducive to success (although it did primarily elect our current President).
Isn’t this what supposedly separates us from everyone else? Isn’t this what we’re talking about when we invoke the “American Dream.”
Though this is by no means breaking news, it’s time for me to weigh in on the case of Jericho Scott, the now famous 10-year-old pitcher who was banned by his league for being too good.
And though the obvious solution to the situation would be to move the kid up to a more talented division, in truth, it has already been done. Scott already pitches for the more advanced Dom Aitro Pony League, were he is good, but by no means the dominating performer he is in the beginner-level LJB league.
So why is he pitching in both?
Well, like all little-league fiasco’s, the fault lies not on the heads of the kids but with the “adults” managing the league and team affairs. Scott was brought in midseason as a ringer who could help the Will Power Fitness sponsored team upset the league champions, who are coincidentally sponsored by the employer of a league administrator.
When it became clear that no one could beat this kid, league officials and parents got together and concocted a good lie that could presumably oust him from the league.
“It’s a matter of safety,” they said, citing the youngster’s fearsome 40mph fastball. Of course, it later came out that Scott was perhaps the most controlled pitcher in the league, and had not hit anyone with a stray pitch. For some reason, the more obvious argument of moving him to a more competitive league didn’t arise until some time later.
The message to the kids? When you find yourself inconvenienced by another’s superiority, it’s best to make up lies to get him kicked off the playing field.
In other words, moral mediocrity.
Jericho’s parents and coach are not blameless in this situation either, as they obviously moved their son down in talent level so he could be a star. Though it is reasonable for a boy to want to play with kids his own age, it is pretty unreasonable for that kid to pitch EVERY game.
Put the kid at second base for a game or two, for Pete’s sake, and let some of the other kids (in what is defined as a beginner’s developmental league) get a shot a developing the pitching skill.
In their own lust to win a regular-season title in a meaningless league for elementary school kids, these “adults” have clearly lost their perspective. They are now following it up with lawsuits, claiming damages for “emotional stress.”
The message to kids? The best way to look good yourself is to surround yourself with inferior competition.
In other words, opportunistic mediocrity.
Finally, when presented with this dominating pitcher, the other “adults” wet the bed, too. When Jericho was present on the mound after the league had tried to ban him, the coach forfeited the game, packed up his gear, and took his team home.
Instead of allowing his kids a chance to compete against the best, he decided that it was better to check them out of the game, lest they get their feelings hurt. Apparently “that’s why they play the game” has little meaning in the realm of pee-wee baseball.
Whether the kid was too good to be playing in the league or not was a matter that should’ve been settled well before he was eight games into the season.
The fact remains that the ONLY way to improve yourself is to test yourself against better competition, and the only way to make your way in life is to stare down that competition and give it your best shot. If you strike out, so be it, but you at least need the courage to try.
The message to kids? When facing talented competition, it’s best to quit.
In other words, aspirational mediocrity.
And so we’re left with another mess perpetuated by “adults,” with the kids dangling in the middle. The problem is that kids emulate "adults" and are undeniably learning a thing or two about how to behave inappropriately.
Obviously, talent level should be considered when putting together a beginner’s league, but in the absence of that, the solution is to quit? Unfortunately, by sheltering our kids from losing, they may just grow up not knowing what they are good at.
Grade inflation has relegated our best students to the middle of the pack because everyone gets on “A.”
“Everyone is special” athletics relegates our best athletes to the middle of the pack because everyone gets a ribbon.
Abandoning the critical eye relegates our best artists to the middle of the pack because everyone’s painting was just great.
Apparently, being excellent at something should now be a source of great shame.
In the end, Dash had it right. If everybody is special, then no one is. And mediocrity, not baseball, is America’s new national pastime.
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