Saturday, May 17, 2008

Roberto Clemente

A month or so ago I watched an episode of American Experience on PBS about Roberto Clemente and was captured by his grace, both on and off the field. He was misunderstood, under-estimated, to the dismay of his opponents, and a pioneer for the Puerto Rican major league community. And wow could he play. He ran the bases with wild abandon, he hit safely 3,000 times, and his arm was a booming threat from right field. And for fifty-minutes I remembered what I like about baseball: the quiet thoughtfulness of the game; the heroics of the individual as part of a team; but mostly the skill and precession that is demanded to be a great player.

It also reminded me how we, as a culture, look at the past through rose-colored glasses--everything was more comfortable, easier, and the people who lived those times reacted more properly and with a grace that is lacking in the present. I'm certain that Clemente had his flaws, as both player and man, but we have a tendency to look only at the good. And as I watched his short life unfold on the television screen I didn't mind that it was a gentler and kinder portrayal than reality because there was something important and real in the film. It said, in differing shades of truth, this is humanity at its best. This is what we can be if we try, persevere, and compete. And for a moment it made me proud of my species, and that's a feeling I don't carry with me as often as I should; usually with good reason.

No comments: