Monday, August 29, 2011
When I was 17 I wanted to be John Olerud. To 98 percent of people reading this blog the name John Olerud is not going to mean anything to you. John Olerud was a professional baseball player who played the majority of his career for the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Mets, and Seattle Mariners. I was first made aware of him by my younger brother who, in a big F-U to the Subramanian clan, decided that at age 8 his favorite team was going to be the Toronto Blue Jays and not any of the New York based teams that we grew up with. That preceded the time he hit me upside the head with a replica New York Yankees mini bat at home. He was really taking this anti-America thing to new heights. My brother collected every John Olerud baseball card from 1989-1993 and put them together in a collage d'Olerud. If Dexter was real life, not a fictional TV show, and around in 1993 my brother would have been murdered. His crime? Weirdness.
On the bright side those cards are now worth a collective $1.61.
In December of 1996 John Olerud was traded to the New York Mets which also happened to be my favorite team. In a fit of rage my brother demanded that I trade him my "Dookie" Green Day cassette tape for his John Olerud love chest of baseball cards. I declined. This was based on the fact that I knew that a cassette tape version of Green Day's most wonderful album would be worth a boatload in the future. And I was right. A copy of "Dookie" on Ebay goes for a robust $4.99. And you can buy it right now. Suck on it, futures market.
There were many reasons I started liking John Olerud. He took some ridicule because he wore a helmet in the field (due to a brain aneurysm and not because he was mentally disabled or ate too many dandelions as a kid), but he never got mad. He had a sweet swing, fielded his position (1st base) impeccably, and rode the 7 train to Mets' games instead of driving which I thought was the coolest thing ever. Public transportation even when you make millions?!? IS THIS REAL LIFE?! But the biggest reason is that he was really nice. He never argued with umpires even when they were blatantly wrong and always respected everyone. Not to mention he was pretty good at baseball and when I was 17 I was convinced that I would one day be in the Major Leagues and have all the baseball groupies one man could handle. As of today I cannot tell you the amount of baseball groupies I've slept with because it would be inappropriate to make that public.
Rhymes with Robert DeNiro.
The other day someone brought up role models in a conversation and asked me if I had one. After making the requisite Paul Rudd/ Seann William Scott pop culture reference, I was stuck. Mainly because that kid McLovin was in another movie where he played a huge nerd. How many times can that happen to someone? Michael Cera tells you to get lost kind sir. I guess you could say John Olerud was my role model. In reality, there was no way I was going to be John Olerud since he was white, left handed, 6'3", and really good at baseball. I had only one of those four things going for me. The white thing. Wait, I’m being told I'm not white. Thanks DAD! I did look up to him, though, and tried to do all the same things he did. Instead of a spoiled brat playing baseball I became more respectful. I became more John Olerud.
Spoiler alert. Still not white.
But it made me wonder if you even know who your role models are when you’re younger. Charles Barkley once famously said, "I am not a role model" and people yelled at him because he could dunk a basketball and they could not. I'm sure other people yelled at him for other things, but that's what I was yelling about. When you're 5'8 and half and dreaming of dunking a basketball seeing someone else do it is very traumatic. It makes you resort to things like lowering your family's basketball hoop to 8 feet so you can throw down a sick reverse two hand jam while your friends rate you. Not that anyone I know did that. More than 5 times.
Role models should be people you want to be when you get older. Most people say your parents should be your role models, but my dad smoked cigarettes and once said, "There is a time for laughing. Now is not the time to have the time to laugh." I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. I didn't want to grow up smoking cigarettes and ruining the English language so I looked elsewhere. I did take a lot of traits from my dad, but I never considered him a role model. In 2008 there was a survey done by British schoolteachers about role models. Most of the kids wanted to be two people.
David and Victoria Beckham.
Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with that? I’m sure they are two lovely people, but what do we really know about them? David Beckham can kick a soccer ball around and Victoria Beckham can, uh, get pregnant? Why are kids looking up to them? We don’t really even know them or if they’re good parents or if they are two people you should be aspiring to be. I’m sure being as rich as them would be great, but I would like to be as rich as OJ circa 1992 too and that didn’t work out too well for anyone except for Court TV.
If and when I have kids I would hope they would pick me as their role model. I hope they would look at me and say, “I want to be like my dad because he is awesome and one time he let me get sprinkles on my ice cream cone and mom doesn’t let me do that because mom never wants us to have any fun since she took away my hovercraft!” Take that future wife! In your face! If my hypothetical kids pick David Beckham in a survey I’ll be distraught because David Beckham will be in his 50s and still relevant.
I picked John Olerud as my role model when I was 17 because he could hit a baseball pretty far and was nice on TV, but what did I know about him? We should only pick our role models in hindsight. Looking back on it my role model was a combination of people. John Olerud plus my dad plus Chris Rock’s standup act. I think my dad would be happy to know he shares being my role model with Chris Rock’s humor and John Olerud’s athleticism.
I’ll trade my brother for that collage now.