Time For Some Good News

vin-scully-i-will-miss-2Maybe it’s time for some good news. On the morning when 100 million of us are likely to watch the presidential debates tonight—in this most bizarre of political seasons, in this most fractured nation of ours—here’s the kind of good news we long to hear. Yesterday, one humble, gracious man, Vin Scully, who after 67 years as the announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, at the age of 89, occupied the broadcast booth for the last time. “I will miss you,” he said, characteristically shifting the focus from himself.

He was appropriately lionized yesterday. The papers are full of glowing tributes this morning. All kinds of people were recalling a story of Vin Scully coming into their homes. I listened to Scully as a child in Phoenix. Phoenix was home of the farm team for the arch rival San Francisco Giants. On sultry summer evenings, I was elated to watch the likes of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Juan Marichal, before they became towering figures of the game. But on Saturday afternoons, I also listened to the Dodger’s broadcasts, and there was Vin Scully, that not-too-excitable, always-calm voice, yet always bringing the verve and the drama of up-to-the-minute baseball into our lives.

The Dodgers won the National League West Division yesterday, but not until the bottom of the tenth inning. It all unfolded suddenly with a home run by a journeyman infielder, Charlie Culberson, not used to hitting home runs. It was a perfect finish to Scully’s illustrious career. In his matter-of-fact voice he called the play—“oh-and-one to Charlie . . . swung on and a high drive to deep left field”—and then the drama, always the drama with Scully—“the Dodger bench empties, would you believe a home run?” He often went silent in these dramatic moments, often for long stretches. In typical fashion, he refused to insert himself, when the actual play, he felt, was better than his voice.

But then came the finishing touches yesterday. The players, dancing and leaping on the field, suddenly turned to Scully’s booth and tipped their hats for an appreciative good-bye. Scully took up the microphone for one last time and told the fans, especially the fans, and the players, that they were the wind beneath his wings. And then they played a recording—all of this Hollywood signature stuff—a recording he made for his wife twenty-five years ago. The voice was his, with orchestral background, the tune “The Wind Beneath My Wings”: “So I was the one with the glory, while you were the one with all the strength.” The cameras caught women crying all over the stadium. I had tears in my eyes. Maybe a bit of schmaltz, to be sure, but genuine and appropriate from such a humble man. It was a final gesture to his team, his community, the sport he loved, his wife, and, yes, in deep gratitude to God for the gift of the life and work and people he loved. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

In an age when overcharged egos occupy about every stage within sight; in a time when neither we nor our institutions are loyal; in a time when our egos divide marriages, communities, our nation—here was a tribute to a different sort of man. He loved his work with all his heart. He did it with consummate skill and beauty. He was loyal to the game and to the organization he served. Through it all he considered himself a husband, father, grandfather. Most of all, he said, he wanted simply to be an honorable man. Through it all there was that signature humility, always giving credit elsewhere, consistently expressing gratitude, so often dipping into the poignant moments of human decency.

Even yesterday, as he cooed over a sleeping baby in the arms of her dad; even as he seamlessly weaved one of his famous stories in-between pitches without skipping a beat; even then as he talked about the lives of the players, their families, their deeper convictions, their work-ethic—he was, yes, the teacher, the encourager, the reconciler. Vince Scully attended mass before every game with the players and the groundskeepers. Here lies the source of his humility. This faithfulness brought to his work a much larger context. He was a man called to a higher purpose through his work. May God give each one of us, no matter our stage in life, such a calling, such a posture in life, such humility.

And so as we watch the jarring theatrics of the debates tonight, maybe it’s worth thinking about Vin Scully. It can be different, we want to remind ourselves. Our lives can participate in genuine goodness. Would that our leaders would call us to our better selves, but if that’s not to be for this season, it’s worth watching carefully the lives of the Vin Scully’s of our world to discover there a better way.