I picked up the sports page this morning to read the Detroit Tigers won the auction for Prince Fielder. The behemoth home run hitter signed with the Tigers for $214 million! Tim Lincecum, the former University of Washington pitcher, signed a two-year deal with the San Francisco Giants for $40 million! That's $20 million a year to work a couple of times a week, nine months out of every year. "Really," I thought, "does that seem outrageous to anyone else?" Then I remembered the Value Equation, a simple formula for money earned in the marketplace:
The VALUE Equation - D x A x D/R = $/Yr
D = The DEMAND for what the marketplace wants
A = The ABILITY to do the job in an extraordinary way
D/R = The DIFFICULTY OF REPLACING that person
$/Yr = The amount of money earned in a year
The people who understand this formula and continually work on their Knowledge (specialized), Attitude (positive), Skills (specific to the industry), and Habits (that turn from discipline into routines) are in the top four percent in their field. It's rarified air to be sure. There is a price to be paid in advance for admission into this exclusive four-percent club. With admission come celebrity, paparazzi, and life in the proverbial fishbowl. It's fair.
Legendary slugger Ralph Kiner, who had 369 home runs from 1946-1955, unleashed his opinion one day, "Cadillacs are down at the bottom of the bat!" The English translation: Hit home runs if you want to make big money. So Prince Fielder's KINGly sum of $214 million is fair. He puts people in the seats. You come to jeer or cheer, but you come. Television ratings soar and television money flows like the Amazon.com River.
Our culture loves its sports heroes. They are canonized, lionized, aggrandized, epitomized, and homogenized. We give them memorable nicknames: Leo the Lip, The Georgia Peach, The Babe, Stan the Man, Mick, The Iron Horse, Ol' Diz, Joe D, Say Hey, The Duke, The Big Train. Baseball is famous for it. When they act badly, we want to forgive them. After all, we put celebrities on a pedestal.
There was an exception in the annals of baseball. His name was Peter Edward. He was an Outlier (see Malcolm Gladwell's third book).
He was the excited, eager kid always looking forward to coming to the ballpark like a child coming down the stairs at Christmas expecting a new bike or an X-box.
He was the kid who truly loved to play baseball. It was pure joy and his gratitude gushed like Old Faithful.
He was unselfish early on and a true team player. He changed positions with a great attitude when asked. He was a winner. His teams always did well and he made everyone else better.
He was the sportswriter's friend, always willing to do an interview.
He was a regular guy who loved seeing his name in the paper.
He was the kid who made the veterans look bad. They resented his attitude, hard work, and behavior. He sprinted to first on a base-on-balls or would round the bases in twelve seconds when he hit a home run. He did everything with great enthusiasm and hustle.
He was destined for greatness and everyone who saw him agreed.
Watching the rookie sprint to first base one during spring training, Mickey Mantle observed sarcastically, as only the Mick could, "Well, if it isn't Charlie Hustle." The name stuck.
There is an old aphorism, "HAVE character, don't BE one." Peter Edward was a character. He could hit. He hit 'em where they ain't over and over again like no one else. He sold seats. We came to jeer and cheer.
Off the field, though, Peter Edward had a little problem. Actually, he had several problems. He liked to gamble. As his income and celebrity grew, so did his addiction and ego. He surrounded himself with sycophants. Peter-the-Character spun out of control, losing his soul, his reputation, and eventually the one thing he once cared about most, baseball. His ultimate undoing, the primary reason he fell from grace, was simply because he lied.
These top tier performers, the four-percenters, have some characteristics in common. They are driven, obsessive, passionate, hard-working, and maniacal in their approach to their bliss. It takes them to the top. Sadly, as Lowell George sang, "The same people you mistreat on the way up, you gonna meet on the way back down." Some of them fall from grace with the thud of an elephant tripping under the Big Top. It's a big noise in today's media driven circus. It sells newspapers and drives up ratings. The Germans call it schadenfreude.
For decades we have seen celebrities-men doing stupid things which only men can do-from all walks of life fall from grace. They have a long-term secret affair with a housekeeper (Arnold Schwarzenegger), post photos of private parts on Twitter (Rep. Anthony Weiner), have multiple affairs (Tiger Woods), take illegal performance enhancing drugs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens), be accused of rape (Kobe Bryant), or lie to a nation (Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton). Addiction, arrogance, ego, or fear all conspire to take them down.
Why do men do stupid stuff and then deny it, lying to themselves and others to their dying breath? Self-centered fear, fear they will lose what they have or not get what they want. All they really need to say is, "I am so sorry. I messed up. Please forgive me." We would have forgiven them. We do forgive them.
For some of these men-why is it almost exclusively men?-the idea of apologizing is inconceivable and like pulling teeth from that fallen pachyderm. It's not gonna happen. It is the source of their undoing. They lie, they blame, they tap dance around the truth and resist growing up or being accountable for their actions and decisions, even when they are dead wrong. Elton John sang, "Sorry seems to be the hardest word." How true. How sad. How come?
Peter Edward Rose was, and is, the greatest hitter in the history of baseball. With 4,256 hits and a lifetime batting average of .303, he most certainly would be earning $30 million a year today. Instead, because he WAS a character instead of HAVING it, he is forever banned from baseball and will never be in the Hall of Fame. Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. Instead, he is a cautionary tale, the kind we tell our children as a warning. One we all need to be reminded of from time to time when we read about people like the late great coach Joe Paterno and his alleged ignoble former assistant. His fall from grace and forced retirement was the beginning of the end for him. Sad and avoidable because the truth will set us free.
Pete Rose was one my heroes as a kid. Today, my heroes are men WITH Character, the ones that man up, tell the truth, are authentic, and make amends when they drop the ball. For men, sorry does seems to be the hardest word. Ladies, please forgive me; I went on way too long.