When I was in middle school, once a year we would all board busses and head to the local stadium for field day. We would all compete in various track and field events, and a small number of students would get blue ribbons for winning an event. Everyone else got red ribbons. They were then, as they are now, “participation ribbons”. (I’ll bet some of you did not know that the odious “”participation award” dates as far back as 1980. Oh well, nihil novi sub sole.)
I’m not entirely certain why the rest of us were recognized. We did not run faster, jump higher, or throw farther than anyone else. Our major accomplishment on Field Day was not getting lost between the busses and the stadium. Even though I had been raised in liberal house, there was enough common sense stirring in me back then to know that a blue ribbon was better than a red one and that discernible success was better than well, just showing up.
And so after the first such Field Day, I came home and displayed my red ribbon to my parents with the explanation that in our field day, first place contestants got red ribbons and not blue ones. Never mind that the ribbon was stamped with the word “PARTICIPIANT” in large gold letters.
In the real world, there are winners and losers. Ability is arguably the product of two things: 1) God-given ability to perform and 2) The desire to succeed. The two are not mutually exclusive, and it could be argued desire can trump natural ability.
As a lifelong Reds fan, I grew up enamored with the Big Red Machine, and like many kids in my era I was also a fan of Pete Rose.
And yes, I am aware of his betting scandal and that he has entered the world of reality television. But going back to the era when there still seemed to be giants in professional sports, Pete Rose was an astounding baseball player. But he wasn’t a natural. In the movie “4192 The Crowning of the Hit King” Rose stated that when he started playing baseball, he couldn’t run, and he couldn’t hit. He had to do it by his sweat and his drive. And he became not just a good ballplayer, but a great ballplayer, thus earning the nickname “Charlie Hustle.”
Rose understood that you don’t make it to the World Series by successfully finding the clubhouse, or by merely participating. To win, one must be better than one’s competitors. And if one does not win, one must divine why, and work to improve so that one can win.And if that is not possible, one should find another activity. Or become obsolete.