Jewish World Review May 10, 2000 / 5 Iyar, 5760
Maybe it's time for the
right people to hear
Jim Parque, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox,
was very unhappy about something recently, and
he made his displeasure known to reporters assigned
to cover his team.
What made Parque upset was that not enough
people were coming out to cheer for him and his
teammates while they played baseball.
"I don't know what else we can do," Parque
complained to the reporters. "It's mind-boggling. I
don't understand. I mean, we're winning. What do
we have to do, throw perfect games and hit every
pitch out of the park before they come out?
"It's not like the weather's bad. . . . You're just like,
hello? Gives you a little boost when you strike
somebody out and you hear a massive roar, or a guy
hits a home run and the place goes nuts."
Well, yes, it undoubtedly does. Professional athletes,
who make handsome amounts of money to play
games, who earn their livings by doing the things
other people do for fun, who are used to having
reporters write down their every utterance, and
having adoring fans stand up to applaud them, are so
accustomed to the sound of cheers that evidently
they consider it to be their right. Part of the benefits
package -- strangers screaming out their love. And
when the shouts of love are not there, they
In yesterday's column, the case of John Rocker was
discussed. Rocker, who has just returned to duty as
a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves after his
much-publicized enforced absence from baseball,
had this to say to reporters who were assigned to
speak with him on his first night back: "Beat it."
That's what can happen to young men who, from the
time they are children, are pampered and treated like
royalty because they can run swiftly or throw a
small ball with accuracy. They become so used to
strangers seeking their great thoughts that they begin
to believe they deserve it. And meanwhile, men and
women who are just as skilled as the ballplayers --
men and women who teach brilliantly, who excel at
the sciences, who work tirelessly in fire departments
and police departments and children's protective
agencies -- never hear a cheer.
It will probably always be thus. But last week, while
Jim Parque was complaining that not enough people
were cheering him and his fellow ballplayers, while
John Rocker was directing people who wished to
hear his words to "beat it," I was thinking about a
young woman who lives in Ft. Meyers, Fla. Her
name is Laurie Dickinson, she's 18, and she is a
senior at Estero High School. She had let me know
about something that seems to be one small step
toward making our priorities more sane.
At her school, she said, there are pep rallies to honor
the students who do well in classes -- who study
hard and improve their grades. The rallies are the
same kind that have traditionally been held for
school athletes -- complete with cheers, awards and
"For the past five years we have been celebrating
and rewarding academics right up there with the
At her school, she said, the
pep-rallies-for-good-students program is called
Renaissance, and is part of a national effort
sponsored by Jostens, the yearbooks-and-class-rings
company; other schools, on their own, are beginning
to hold rallies for good students. People apparently
are finally beginning to realize that to applaud and
celebrate only the good athletes is not just
narrow-minded -- it is counter to everything that
matters in the real world. High school athletes are to
be encouraged for the work they put into their
sports, but the fact is, a tiny percentage of them will
go on to make their livings playing those sports as
But the boys and girls who study in silence -- some
of whom go home to empty houses, who never hear
a word of encouragement from anyone -- are much
more likely to turn their quiet work into something
that makes the world a better place. The boy who
spends long hours learning physics, the girl who
makes herself understand the higher levels of
mathematics -- who cheers for them? Who tells
them that they are doing a good job, that their
What is going on at Estero High School in Florida,
and is beginning to go on at other schools -- loud
rallies to cheer for the students who do their best in
class -- seems to be a good start. Jim Parque and his
teammates will hear plenty of applause this summer,
especially if they win enough games; John Rocker
will be surrounded by reporters whether he has
anything of merit to say or not. We don't need to
worry about them. To the boys and girls who have
never received an ovation, though . . . well, they're
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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