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Baseball players are social misfits

Aug 17, 2010, 12:03 PM EDT

This starts out as a thing about ballplayers but kind of turns into a bit of a social/political thing. But not a partisan one, I don't think, so don't be afraid.

Former big leaguer Brent Mayne has a new post up over at his blog and, like most of the stuff he writes, it’s pretty fantastic.

The subject: how baseball players are shielded from normal social interaction and how that turns them into social misfits. Not in the way we typically hear about athletes being coddled and told they’re special thereby giving them ego problems. No, Mayne’s point is far more mundane: ballplayers don’t deal with airports and reservations and conversations with people and stuff and it makes them, well, weird and insulated. He says it in much more plain and useful terms than I just did, though, so by all means go read it.

Mayne’s observations dovetail in with one of my pet social/political concerns, and that’s social equality. Not financial equality, mind you. I believe people should be rewarded for their talents and efforts. For as much of a commie as I may seem at times, I have no problem with personal wealth for the sake of personal wealth. Indeed, I’d like a great deal of it for myself, please.

But I am a bit distressed at the way that wealth — and not just wealth, but technology too, the access of which can be dependent on wealth — has, quite recently, really, served to cut off people from what I’ll call “the public square” for lack of a better term. Don’t want to wait on line with people anymore? Pay a little extra to get VIP service. Don’t want to deal with the masses in the stands at the ballpark? Spring for club level seats. Don’t want to head to the department store? Hire a personal shopper.

These (and a bunch of other examples) are all matters of convenience or luxury which are understandably desirable. And I’m not suggesting that we try to put a stop to them because they’re just part of the market functioning, and I’m a fan of the market more or less.

I just worry that we’re losing something as a society by not having to wait on line next to one another or assemble in the same social spaces as much as we used to. That, like Mayne and other ballplayers, the ability to eschew interaction with the general public, however understandable, desirable and inevitable it may be, is causing us all to become social misfits to some degree.

I mean, if you never stand next to strangers in close quarters, what’s forcing you to cover your mouth with your handkerchief when you sneeze? Metaphorically speaking, I mean.

And yes, working by myself from my own home for the past several months has had much to do with thoughts like these staying close to the surface. I hate offices. Never liked working in one. But when I go out in public lately, I sometimes feel like I have three heads and that I can’t put two sentences together with people in conversation.

Anyone else feel this way or am I just off in Crazy Craig Land here?

  1. Drew Silva - Aug 17, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    I, for one, am too frightened to even think about it. So there!

  2. JimmyY - Aug 17, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Craig, please, check out the local WalMart. Your better off at home, dude.

  3. John_Michael - Aug 17, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    as much as we used to
    I understand your point, but for the life of me, I can’t ever remember a time where the high falutins mingled with the masses.
    Also, RE: But when I go out in public lately, I sometimes feel like I have three heads and that I can’t put two sentences together with people in conversation.
    Did yourself, a blogger, just admit to having social anxiety when you leave your mother’s basement?

  4. Bull Durham - Aug 17, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    I’ll take Mayne’s point and extend it back further. Think about the best athlete with whom you went to high school. Think about how that guy was treated by his peers, by girls, by parents, by administrators. Now think about the fact that each and every major leaguer was not just the best athlete in his high school class but probably was the best athlete ever to come out of his high school. He was the best player on every team for which he ever played leading up to the big leagues. Think about the way these guys perceived the world around them from the time they began playing organized sports. Everyone wanted to be their friend or be in their good graces in one form or another.
    The question isn’t why major leaguers are social misfits because that seems inevitable under the circumstances. The question is, for those rare major leaguers who genuinely seem to have some perspective on their amazingly fortunate lot in life and somehow learned to treat others with respect and dignity, how on earth did they do it?

  5. Matt S. - Aug 17, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    I know who to blame – it’s those damn Interwebs!!!
    /get off my lawn

  6. bgrant - Aug 17, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    Bull Durham: Great comment.

  7. KarkoviceWasMyIdol - Aug 17, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    Craig – i once worked from home and after a while found that the problem was reference points. everyone else was out in the world experience traffic, weather, stop lights, all the things that go into daily life. while most of the the topics just mentioned are mundane and lead to annoying conversations, they are still what make up social interaction. So, when you don’t experience what everyone else experiences, it becomes tough to relate/converse.

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