Don’t Idolize Athletes, Especially Tom Seaver

At a recent Mets season ticket holders’ event at Citi Field, Tom Seaver was asked this during the Q&A session: “In 1970, you started 17-6 and finished 18-12. My father lost sleep over it and always wanted to know: What happened after the All Star break?”

Seaver raised his microphone towards his mouth. His glare made everyone in the room realize what it must have felt like to step in the batter’s box against him. “How much money did your dad lose? I came here all the way from Napa Valley and you’re here to jump on my case? What the hell happened then? We didn’t get any runs at all the last half of the season. Who the hell are you? Go home and beat your dog. How would you like it if I stood up here and said, ‘You suck! You suck! You suck!’?”

Seaver lost at least two fans that night: my friend Mike, who asked the question, and his father, who had suggested it. My purpose is not to vilify Tom Terrific. But he got his nickname for his 300 wins, not his relationship with fans. Meeting your hero—whether it be an athlete, musician, actor, etc.—can often prove to be a major disappointment.* There is no correlation between being a great talent and being a good person.

*Unless your hero is singer/actress Ashanti, in which case you’ll be pleased. More on that later this week.

Baseball’s most popular players have been in New York for a couple of days, as the All Star Game will take place at Citi Field tonight. Fans should appreciate the players’ remarkable on-field achievements, but save the hero worship for more deserving individuals.

I’m not saying all athletes or famous people are jerks. But I think Charles Barkley was right when he said dunking a basketball didn’t make him a role model. There are countless firefighters and teachers and volunteers that should be idolized before ballplayers.

And if you see Seaver in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon—Major League Baseball thought it was a good idea to make him the Grand Marshal of the All Star Game parade—smile and wave. Just don’t ask him any questions.

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