Ted Williams, YouTube, and the Hot-Wiring of the American Dream

Gene StrotherCorrespondent IIIJanuary 12, 2011

PITTSBURGH - JULY 7: A Fan looks over Ted Williams memorabilia during opening day of Fan Fest for the Major League Baseball 2006 All-Star game at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center July 7, 2006 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Imagine this scene...

Somewhere in a  south Boston neighborhood, Little Johnny is walking through the living room with his Nintendo DS in hand when he sees Grampa sitting in Dad's recliner, half napping, half watching some random news program. The story Grampa is paying no attention to is about the latest YouTube sensation, the homeless Ohio fellow named Ted Williams, the man with the golden pipes.

"Hey, Grampa. Do you know who this Ted Williams is?"

Grampa stirs from the drift into Dreamland.

"Huh? Wha--? Ted Williams?"

The old man sits up, beaming with pride. His grandson actually knows the name Ted Williams!

"Of course I know who he is! He is only the greatest hitter in history. He is the greatest player in Red Sox history. They called him 'The Splendid Splinter.'"

Grampa continues excitedly, "Ted Williams is the last batter to bat over .400 in a season. He had a career batting average of .344 and hit 521 home runs! He was the greatest ever. Forget the Babe. Ted Williams was the best. The day he died was a sad, sad day."

Little Johnny's jaw drops as if it has come unhinged. His eyes are wide and filled with a strange mixture of fear and wonder. He looks from his grandfather to the image of the haggard, homeless man on the TV.

"O-OK, Grampa. Thanks!"

The boy turns and sprints through the house, calling, "Mom! Mom! Where are you?"

He finds her with her head in the washing machine, swapping out another load of laundry.

"For Pete's sake, son? What is it?"

"It's Grampa. I think he is losing it, Mom. I think he is going senile or something."


"Yeah! He thinks Ted Williams is some dead baseball player!"

Somewhere in the world something like that had to go down. Don't you think?

The meteoric rise of the bass-voiced deadbeat dad and alcohol/drug-abusing panhandler Ted Williams illustrates just how we Americans can see Hell from the hand-basket we are crammed into. It also marks a definite shift in the way we conceive and pursue the American dream.

In the past, it was believed that, because of the opportunities afforded each of us by the freedoms and resources we enjoy as Americans, anybody could make it if he or she was willing to pay the price of blood, sweat and tears.

Back then, you heard people say things like, "The harder I work, the luckier I get."

You had guys like Gale Sayers saying, “I learned that if you want to make it bad enough, no matter how bad it is, you can make it.”

(Some tow-headed kid is smirking. "Gale? A guy named Gale?!)

John Madden was warning anyone who would listen, "The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

(Same kid is saying, "Madden! I love Madden 11. Madden 10 sucked, man.)

And the immortal words of the even more immortal Vince Lombardi still echoed in our ears: “The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.”

But that was the olden days, back when we assumed success was the product of things like hard work, solid investment, and good timing.

To Generation xBox, that all sounds like sappy silliness of sentimental old fools. They know better. It's not about hard work. It's not about paying your dues.

It's about making a really kick-ass video and getting it on YouTube. It's about going viral, dude.

It's about making it on American Idol. And if you don't make it there and you feel like a complete failure and you console yourself by eating buckets of ice cream for years and years, then you can get on the Biggest Loser and be an overnight success.

Who wants to be the next Abraham Lincoln when you can be the next William Hung?

How hard must it be for youth football, baseball and basketball coaches to convince their kids that hard work and dedication really do pay off? Every time they pop online, some nobody is making everybody take notice. Some new sideshow has gone viral. Some new name is on everybody's lips.

Like Ted Williams.

Yeah, that Ted Williams. The one whose sudden fame has already hit a brick wall with his arrest in Los Angeles. While media outlets across the nation line up to hear him talk, his daughter is opening up about dear old dad. Janey is her name. She was hauled down to jail with dad to sort out a disturbance they caused in the Renaissance Hotel.

According to the New York Daily News, this is Janey's explanation of what happened:

"He said 'You, you fat [expletive], and when he said that, I just got angry," she recounted.

She added that her father -- a former radio personality -- has turned back to the bottle since his new-found fame.

"He's consumed at least a bottle of Grey Goose a night, at least," Janey said. "That's not including the Coronas he orders, that's not including the Budweisers he orders, that's not including the other alcohol, the wines. He drinks "heavily."

It seems that hot-wiring the Successmobile might not always be as good an idea as it seems. Maybe a little self-discipline, hard work, sacrifice and responsible behavior would be nice to mix in there.

Don't get me wrong: I do understand the irony of a nobody like me having a voice on the Internet, being able to put a story like this out there for people all over the globe to read.

Come to think of it, if every every reader would give this article a FaceBook like and a Twitter tweet, maybe we can make it go viral and I can be the next Ted Williams. Though hitting .400 is out of the question for me.

I never could handle the off-speed pitch.


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