In 1999 St.Louis named a 6.6 mile stretch of I-70 for McGwire after the slugger belted a record 70 home runs in 1998. It was done as a way to celebrate the accomplishment and honor the beloved first baseman.
In 1999 the great third baseman George Brett was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and that summer he also received the honor of having a stretch of I-70 named after him. Not just "highway", but "SUPER HIGHWAY". This was done to honor the greatest Kansas City Royal of all-time.
Being a baseball fan you would think that upon seeing their names my mind would race to their on the field accomplishments. That I would think about McGwire's mammoth home runs and Brett's diving stops at third base. Not so. My mind raced to a single event for each that overshadowed their exploits on the field. Well, at least in McGwire's case.
Upon seeing Mark McGwire Highway I did not immediately think of his season with 70 home runs. Instead I thought about his statements, or more accurately about his lack of statements, at the initial congressional hearing on steroids. At that moment at least I remembered McGwire for something very negative. A single event.
Crossing the section of the George Brett Super Highway brought to mind the Pine Tar Incident. An incident that is not really negative or one that reflects poorly on Brett, but one that usually overshadows his accomplishments.
In case you were too young to remember, it was July 24, 1983 when the Royal's George Brett hit a two-run homer and then watched in disbelief when the umpire, at the urging of Yankee manager Billy Martin, measured Brett's bat for excessive pine tar. Subsequently the home run was erased and Brett ruled out.
I still remember Brett and his bulging eyes and jaw full of chew rushing from the dugout to protest the call. It was wild and those who saw it were left with a permanent memory of the incident.
The story, of course, had a happy ending unless you are a Yankee fan. The Royals appealed the ruling, the decision was overturned by the league, the homer counted, the game was finished a couple of week later, and the Royals won, 5-4.
Seeing the two names and how I responded reminded me about how powerful a single incident, moment or event can be. Although my mind usually runs to moments in sports but it is true in all of life. Christie McAuliffe, OJ, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Princess Di usually evoke a memory related to a single event although the totality of their life encompassed much more.
The other day I was able to once again see the finish to the 1983 NCAA championship game between North Carolina State and Houston. Seeing NC State coach Jim Valvano run around after the game is one of the most iconic moments in the history of the sport. In fact it was Valvano who said, "there are 86,400 seconds in a day. It's up to you to decide what to do with them.” Good advice!
My takeaway from all of this:
- Live in a way that draws attention to God and not myself or my accomplishments
- Don't do things that birth secrets
- One incident can limit my effectiveness in ministry
- God's grace is bigger than my mistakes
- People watch and people interpret and people remember
- Don't take shortcuts
- What people think about me matters (be authentic)
- What people think about me doesn't matter (be authentic)
- No compromise on Character & Integrity
- Be remembered for my behaviors not my rhetoric
- Re-direct praise (up) and trusted criticism (in)