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Quit erecting statues of living people

May 2, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

Statue Planet of the Apes

This has almost nothing to do with baseball, so spare me the “slow news day?” comments and just move along if you don’t like it.

There’s a story in the Arizona Republic about how people want to build a statue of Jerry Colangelo, the original owner of the Diamondbacks and previous owner of the Phoenix Suns.  The problem: local business politics make it awkward:

Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, once feuded with Colangelo, who unceremoniously left the team after the 2004 season. Their relationship is much improved, and Kendrick said he’d be supportive of any plans to honor Colangelo. But he also said it “creates some awkwardness for me to participate in this discussion.”

and

… it would require a new mayor, Greg Stanton, to impose a statue on a [Phoenix Suns] team now owned by Robert Sarver, who has struggled to match the popularity of his predecessor.

At John McLeod’s recent Ring of Honor ceremony, Colangelo and Sarver were introduced in succession. One man received heavy applause, while the other received the opposite reaction. How amenable would Sarver be to furthering that perception with another celebration of Colangelo?

Know what? There are a bunch of statues on the Statehouse lawn here in Columbus. And there are are tons in Washington D.C. There are statues of notable people in every other city too. And there are buildings and museums and colleges and airports and bridges named after famous people all over the place.

Know what else? Until very, very recently, all that naming was done after the namesake was dead. And there was a reason for that: so no one had to worry about whether the honoree’s successors would feel uncomfortable or awkward about it like they do in Phoenix.  Also, so that there can be some perspective about the honoree’s accomplishments.  It was also done that way in case the honoree, after his statue was erected, decided to go on a multi-state killing spree, thereby leading to more awkwardness about what to do with the friggin’ statue now that it honors a mass murderer or something.

Now we insist on honoring people like this while they’re living for some reason.  With politicians, I think it’s done to stake territory and claim some sort of political victory or to rewrite history.  Ronald Reagan got the the second largest and most expensive federal building ever constructed named after him — a building which questionably meshes government and private sector functions — despite the fact that he deplored federal power and involvement in the private sector and was an enemy of government sprawl, bureaucracy and waste. But hey: it’s a trophy on some prime real estate and that’s what matters despite the fact that it’s a pretty inappropriate honor for the guy given what he represented while in power.

In the private sector I think there’s something about rich people who are afraid of death. Or who crave immortality maybe. Give them (or their friends, because most people don’t spearhead these things for themselves) a statue or a park or whatever now so that they may bask in the glory and the honor now, while they still can. Which, hey, understandable.

But it doesn’t seem to me that that’s what such honors should be about. They should be about history and lessons for the future and inspiration to others, which are decidedly outward looking, not inward looking, and thus the honoree’s current status — dead or alive — should be irrelevant.

Maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think of all of this as just one of many ways in which an old civic culture we once had in this country is disappearing. I’ll spare you all of my other examples because they have even less to do about baseball than this thing.  But for now: we used to put up statues of dead people. Now we put up statues of living people.  And that just seems wrong to me.

  1. nolanwiffle - May 2, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    Phoenix, you maniacs! Oh damn you……..goddamn you all to hell!

    • bloodysock - May 2, 2012 at 3:50 PM

      It’s already as hot as hell so what’s the difference?

  2. phukyouk - May 2, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    slow newsday or not you managed to get the word “erect” into a baseball blog.

    • foreverchipper10 - May 3, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      And it wasn’t about Vicente Padilla!

  3. Tim's Neighbor - May 2, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    It’s all those damn kids out there in Phoenix, a city known for their youthful exuberance. Those kids need to stay off Calcaterra’s lawn!

  4. deathmonkey41 - May 2, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    Exactly- we should be erecting statues to Fred Berry instead!!!

  5. Old Gator - May 2, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    I would suggest – humbly, as always – that erecting statues to living people is the best possible way to accommodate them to the inevitability of being dead. I dare say that this is an even more effective therapy than, say, treating the terminally ill with Jungian analysis while on LSD, unlike which you merely require some money, a barely competent sculptor and a corrupt city council (all of which are unready supply), as opposed to a special dispensation from the FDA which can only be had at the pyrrhic emotional cost of intensive engagement with the Federal bureaucracy.

    • Old Gator - May 2, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      In ready supply…

      Once again, damn to hell cellphone keypads.

      And meerkats.

  6. makeham98 - May 2, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    Has Columbus torn down the statue of Jim Rhodes yet?

    • Craig Calcaterra - May 2, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      Nope! It’s still outside the tower that bears his name. Used to walk by it every day on my into work. Singing Neil Young under my breath.

    • Old Gator - May 2, 2012 at 3:07 PM

      As soon as east Marin Count tears down all its Francis Drake road signs.

  7. Detroit Michael - May 2, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    I figured that renaming Washington National airport after Ronald Reagan was even more inappropriate given how he handled (rightly or wrongly I’m not debating) the air traffic controllers strike during his presidency. That seemed rather partisan to me.

    Keep the ballpark statues for the players unless a guy is universally beloved.

  8. Loose Changeup - May 2, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    So I guess you’re not a fan of the new Frank Robinson statue at Camden Yards?

  9. iranuke - May 2, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    You sound like a curmudgeon.

  10. brewcrewfan54 - May 2, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    I don’t see the problem with honoring someone while they are alive so they can know their accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed. They can also celebrate the honor with their contemporaries instead of 20 years down the road when a bunch of people who never knew the person or didn’t know what he stood for celebrate it blindly.

    • Kevin S. - May 2, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      Remember what the Stagg Championship Trophy awarded to the winner of the Big Ten was initially called?

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 2, 2012 at 6:10 PM

        Sure I do. And they changed it. And if one of thee people end up dosgracing themselves they can melt that statue on down.

  11. charlutes - May 2, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    I enjoy your stance on Batman but you seem to get bent out of shape about everything.

  12. chumthumper - May 3, 2012 at 10:59 AM

    The U.S. is the most memorializing country in the world; we will erect a memorial to anything and everything. Eventually, they won’t mean anything, which is so sad for those things and people who should be remembered and honored.

  13. nicosamuelson2 - May 3, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Colangelo needs to get in line. They haven’t even erected a statue for Steven Seagal yet!

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