Monday, October 11, 2004

Two Supermen

The news in the paper today contains the obituaries of Ken Caminiti and Christopher Reeve. The first one literally gave me pause, I had to stop in my bathrobe and re-read the headline to be sure. I remember thinking something like "No. Really? Isn't he (reading first sentence) - younger than me? Aaaaaagh!" It's still, I'm glad to say, an uncommon occurrence.
Ken Caminiti was the last ballplayer that I really enjoyed - not only his performance, but the way that he brought intensity and committment to what he did. My favorite story about him comes from a Spring Training game. A "fan" was heckling him from the stands. After a few innings, Mr. C. left the game, showered, and calmly joined the man in the bleachers. He proceeded to ask the man about his family, his work, and then asked him if people came and yelled at him while he was trying to do his job. No cursing, no chair-throwing, no lawsuits. I liked that, very much. When a man with 'guns' like his only uses his strength on baseballs and bats, he gains my respect.
His later revelations of steroid use pretty much coincided with my disillusionment with baseball and professional sports - I really can't fault him, ultimately, with being the best that he could be in that profession, at that time. Achievement often means sacrifice, and we all struggle with our own smaller-than-life sacrifices for even mediocre gains. The cocaine, well, I understand that it's all part of the mix, yes? If his profession (let's not forget the player's union, k?) had put humanity before the dollar, then maybe he'd still be around for his Hall of Fame induction.
Christopher Reeve, to me, represented the best of a lot of what I know nothing about - Acting, and what I perceived to be pure Humanism. Listening to him describe both always left me scratching my head - I'm pretty sure that he and I perceived this universe in some diametrically opposed ways, but that was also what fascinated me about him. To be a noble celebrity, given a cause, is yet another role to play, I think he did this as well as anyone could, and his willingness to make his personal struggle - including the rigorous therapy that he chose - public, shows a character and courage of extraordinary proportion. He made the world a better place, when he could have turned his back on it. He worked to help others, making his life more difficult, painful, and demanding than it needed to be. A Champion for Humanity.
Two driven individuals. Two Men among men. Two tragically flawed Heroes for my generation. The same, but different. One had time and abilities taken away, the other spent his. They were both, perhaps, too 'big' for thier bodies for completely different reasons.
I admire them both, still.