The Boys of Summer

I told a Yankee fan friend of mine earlier this week that the blog wouldn’t speak of how the Red Sox dramatically augured into the September earth – the worst September crash in Major League history.  An unexpected and welcome visit from another  friend convinced me otherwise, though we barely spoke of baseball.  Tito Francona, the widely acknowledged best ever manager of the Sox for eight years and breaker of the “Curse of the Bambino,” is known as a friend of the players.  In the end, friendship was insufficient, and the authority born of respect was needed.

Francona and the owners agreed on Friday that he would “seek other opportunities”.  Many fans are saddened but agree; his time at Fenway had run its course.  In his final press conference a weary Tito said the team needed a “new voice”.  He seemed crushed by his powerlessness to inspire spoiled players to do what was necessary.  Petty, whining complaints accrued; some pitchers continued to drink beer in the clubhouse during the games after being directed to stop.  Even the Red Sox Nation beloved “Big Papi” acted out like an entitled adolescent earlier in the year by breaking into a pre-game press conference and publically insisting on Francona talking to him right here, right now about some imagined slight with several ‘expletives deleted’ in front of the cameras.

The complexity of coaching multi millionaire twenty something celebrity athletes is well documented; hardly a week goes by without a sports news headline of drug use, bar fights, spousal abuse, dugout rifts or the sad exhibit of some fallen demigod lying to a Congressional subcommittee.  At the risk of over extrapolating, athletes are not exempt from membership in the “Peter Pan” post war generations; the money and the fame make their embarrassments more public than most, but they are not atypical – simply more enabled.  Louise Bogan, the former U.S. Poet Laureate, with her own extremely troubled life, wrote, “But childhood prolonged, cannot remain a fairyland. It becomes a hell.

The “Boys of Summer” are not the role models and champions we hoped they would be, but are, in the end, merely boys with a lot of disposable income.

My friend, Rick, believes adolescents running the asylum harkens back to the French Revolution, when “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” ran rampant and blood ran in the streets.  License and lack of restraint tragically substituted for LibertéFraternité turned out to be pack mentality with ill thought out ends and means, not unrelated to modern gangs and mall rats.  Égalité morphed into radical egalitarianism, which disdained all authority.

He related to me another friend’s lament about the almost impossible challenge of current schools. To paraphrase (and I am probably not exact):  the teachers are afraid of the students; the administrators are afraid of the teachers (and their union); the administrators are afraid of the school board; the school board is afraid of the voters and parents; the parents are afraid of their children, the students.

The children are running the schools, and the adults have fled the premises.  I know many (and am a father to two) teachers.  While they do not like much of what the union promulgates, they look on their union representative as their last protection against fearful administrators and litigious parents, who almost invariably back up their children and distrust the teacher’s side of the story.  Teachers cannot discipline even the most egregious offenses without fear of career ruining repercussions from parents and administrators.

Ironically, teachers are frequently obliged to fulfill the parent’s role, which has been abdicated by numerous parents, who are more friend than father to their children.  The high rate of teacher burn out is inevitable, and too many teachers with no heart, energy, life and imagination left, live only for the blessed day of their own entitled retirement.  The teachers who persevere, who love, who pour out their heart, energy, life, intelligence and imagination for 180 days a year are the champions and role models, worthy of gratitude from all of us.  To a great degree our society is in their hands.

Robert Browning:

What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Boys of Summer

  1. Greg

    As a member and Chairman of a School Committee in a large town, I would agree with all you say regarding the present state of the public school system. Conversely as a parent of a child who attended a private high school, the level of commitment and cooperation by the parents in that school was palpably and visibly different. The administration had the parent’s backs and vice versa, in 4 years I was not aware of a single instance of parents and administration at odds………….I wish I could have said at any time I served on the Public School Committee.

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  2. Rita

    Adolescence is a modern phenomenon. There was a time in history when one didn’t have the option to indulge in adolescent behavior as it was all about survival and keeping the home hearth burning. Children grew up fast.
    I’m not sure that we’ve made progress in this area. Being on the vanguard of the Baby Boomers I think we were a spoiled generation with too much time to act out. We ushered in the sexual revolution and what has that done for us? …A 50% divorce rate, abortion on demand, and flash riots among many other things including overpaid athletes who seem to have no concern for the fans that love them and pay their exorbitant salaries. It’s very sad…as I love Baseball and will have to see a huge change in attitude from these guys before I spend another season wasting my time watching them.
    I was so much more saddened as the stories about the Red Sox came out then I was with their original losing. I seemed to notice that Wakefield had lost his usual joy of playing and that might be explained by what was going on in the club house. It must have been hard for him to witness… He’s an “old timer” and remembers better days.
    The prolonged adolescence we experience in America and see across Europe at this time in history is what I call the Peter Pan syndrome. We all just want to stay young forever and look young forever and never accept the reality of growing old gracefully. It wearies me… I regret the part I played in its promotion so many years ago. Thank God we became repentant hippies. Thank God He was open to our reaching out to him just before we thought about separating and trying to figure out who would get the Bob Dylan albums… God is good.
    Rita

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