September 28, 2023

“Brooksy woulda ate that.”
Life is short, then you are dead a long time. Between the beginning and the end, however long that may be, the goal shouldn’t be perfection (which is unattainable) but as good as you can manage.

By: Martin Hackworth

Baltimore Orioles legend Brooks Robinson passed on to the field of dreams this week at the ripe old age of 86. Robinson, who played his entire 22-year MLB career as a third baseman for Baltimore, was known as the “human vacuum cleaner.” Robinson is widely acknowledged to be among the greatest, if not the greatest, third-basemen ever to play major league baseball. Orioles fans regard him, rightfully, as the greatest player in the history of their franchise.

About the only person in the world who might have a legitimate beef with Robinson is Doug DeCinces, the poor guy who was tasked with replacing the Hall of Famer when Robinson retired from the Orioles at the end of the 1977 season. DeCinces, a formidable player in his own right, endured years of abuse from Baltimore fans (and some Orioles players) whenever he failed to cleanly field a ball hit anywhere between second and third base, be it a frozen rope with eyes or 150 feet in the air. “Brooksy woulda ate that!” being a common refrain.

There is a tendency to mythologize celebrities when they pass, but Robinson was, by all accounts, a very kind and decent man who was wonderful to Orioles fans. His life wasn’t perfect. He encountered significant financial trouble after his playing career was over when some business investments went sideways. But, on the whole, Robinson’s life seems to have been one that was well lived. Except, that is, for one unforgivable thing: the manner in which he almost single-handedly demolished my beloved Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series, which the Orioles won 4 games to 1.

I’ll never forgive him for that.

I don’t think that the goal of a life well lived is perfection. Perfection is unattainable. I think that the goal is to just make the best of things. Circumstances certainly play a large role in the opportunity for one to be all that they may be, but everyone, no matter how austere their present circumstances, has, every day they are above ground, an opportunity to reach for the sky. It’s how often you try, I think, that makes the difference.

Robinson did this by being a wonderful baseball player and a kind gentleman off the field. But Robinson isn’t the only person out there whose life is worthy of celebration. There are many who accomplish the same thing with far less fanfare. I think that the world is and always has been full of lives well lived.

Unfortunately, the flip side of this is also true. There is ample evidence that the world has more than it’s share of lives that are not well lived. Sometimes this is almost entirely due to circumstances. If you are born in many areas of the world, your life, merely by virtue of an unlucky geographical draw, has little chance of being either long or full of happiness. Others are born in good places but into terrible circumstances or suffer mental illness; the odds are against them from the get-go. These souls have my sympathy and probably deserve yours as well.

But there are plenty of those who, for reasons best known to themselves, choose to lead miserable lives. Sometimes this is due to substance abuse or some other vice. But many times it’s just ego, arrogance, laziness, avarice, or a dishonest nature. Newspaper headlines, broadcasts, and history books are full of their names and stories.

Two of the most notorious individuals in this category are currently the frontrunners in their respective parties to campaign in 2024 for President of the United States. Somehow, I doubt that there will be a stampede to wax nostalgic over these or many other current world leaders when their times come.

I came across a story this morning while going through my daily papers over coffee about a person in the news the same day as Brooks who may be the anthesis of Robinson: Henry Rogers, currently known as Ibram X. Kendi.

Kendi was an undistinguished assistant professor in a variety of “Studies” programs at nearly a half dozen undistinguished universities from 2008 until 2020, when, in the wake of the George Floyd riots, he hit upon championing actual racism to fight inevitable disparities that he perceives as racism as a road to riches. His ludicrous book, How to Be an Antiracist, is a virtual cornucopia of bullshit meant to appeal to those who suffer from both feeble-mindedness and white guilt. He’s now a rich man because of it.

Kendi may yet run into karma in this life. He’s under investigation by his current institution, Boston University, over how Kendi’s Center for Antiracist Research at BU blew through tens of millions of dollars without accomplishing a damn thing. And it was his own employees and colleagues who set him up.

Kendi is exhibit number one for what’s wrong with higher education these days. He’s not really accomplished much, but he’s lionized within many academic circles. He’s got awards, citations, and money out the whazoo, the latter of which could more productively be put to use in, say, cancer research.

Where Brooks Robinson displayed actual skill and talent as a baseball player, a notoriously difficult occupation, Ibram X. Kendi excels only as a grifter in a ridiculously simpatico occupation. Where Robinson was beloved by an entire city, Kendi was turned on by his own people, though it should be noted that this seems mostly to be due to the fact that they didn’t think that Kendi was enough of a grifter.

I’m reasonably sure that Kendi’s fame will prove much more tansient than Robinson’s, and for good reasons. One thing is for sure: if a poser like Kendi ever tried to get on base by sneaking a bunt past Robinson, Brooksy woulda ate that.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time with family, riding bicycles and motorcycles, and arranging and playing music. Follow him on Twitter @MartinHackworth.

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