Reign of America’s wall breakers ended Sunday
November 11, 2001
This fall, there’s something about the 11th.
Although not as startling, nor as depressing as the events of Sept. 11, there is still something going on this month.
Nov. 11 for instance, will go down in my mental datebook as the day after Ken Kesey died and the day that Mark McGwire retired.
It’s kind of a major hit for me because I looked up to both of the men with great admiration, and each taught me a great deal albeit in different ways.
It was in the fall of 1995 that I made Bridgton, ME. my home actually Bridgton Academy to be exact. Bridgton is the nation’s only one-year, post-high school prep school..
It was a place where a little-recruited football player like myself could get one more year of playing time, without losing a year of eligibility.
We lived in dorms without television or at least those of us who showed up two weeks early for two-a-days didn’t have television.
What I did have in my possession, though, were all the books I’d need for the school year, including Ken Kesey’s classic, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
With little else to do outside of practice, I picked up the book and read it months before I was initially required to.
As I read, my eyes were opened opened to a new way of viewing the world and what happens in that new world.
The book talked to me about knocking down walls walls that confine us in everyday life, while also thumbing our noses at the authority that supports those walls.
The book analogizes the world to a mental hospital, with patients who only think they are crazy because they don’t have enough courage to live as individuals. Much like real life, in which there are those willing to do the thinking for others who are too scared to do it for themselves.
In the book’s case, it was Nurse Ratchet who did the thinking.
It went on to show that humans do not have to live their lives bound, and can break free.
Personally, the book as my manual on how to live life as my own unique experience, and not to be hampered by anyone else.
Regardless, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is one of the few books that I’ve read a number of times, and I always find new evidence supporting Kesey’s anti-conformists thesis.
All of us can find a little R.P. McMurrphy in ourselves (the lazy convict, who was the hero of the nest).
Through words Kesey taught us how to break down the walls that surround us, whether it be social, mental or physical.
Mark McGwire was the manifestation of a wall breaker.
McGwire never left the spotlight of my life from the time he was a ‘Bash Brother’ with the Oakland A’s, to his record-breaking years in Cardinal red.
Even if I had wanted to ignore the man it would have been an impossibility, but what better athlete to have the media bombard us with?
In 1998, I was lucky enough to get third-row seats in right field, directly directly behind Larry Walker.
It was the Rockies – Cards series at Coors’ Field, during McGwire’s record-breaking year.
I knew there was little chance of catching a home-run ball where I sat, but I also knew that this seat offered plenty of chances to catch lifelong memories.
It turned out that I caught two memories that day.
One was to deep center field, just to the left of the “Rock Pile”, and one to deep left that bounced off the concrete of the concession stands.
Standing at the plate after each shot, like I had seen so many times that year on television, was McGwire with his body contorted in his post-home run stance.
Holding the bat behind his body with one hand, eyes tracking the flight of the ball and right foot pointed toward first base.
The entire year, the media hype focused on the schedule, and how the season was longer for McGwire than it was for Roger Maris.
Not to mention the criticism focusing on McGwire’s supplement intake.
He made few comments and kept on hitting.
In 1998, McGwire was a mountain of a man who broke down walls.
In everyday life, it is nice to know there are those who show us that the only walls are the ones we make ourselves.
The road to breaking down those confinements is not an easy one but at least they allow us to know we are living.