The world without Vin Scully will be a much less vibrant, less informed place. This year, his victory lap, is more than that — it’s the last time the rest of us will be able to witness a piece of living history.
We all know it’s coming.
It’s too much to take, really. If 2016 were a desk calendar, it would be a page turner of who’s who of who’s left us. Just glance over the weekend and see the notable departed: July 4: Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, July 3: French actor Roger Dumas, July 2: Writer/Holocaust survivor/Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, writer of The Deer Hunter Michael Cimino and one of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen, Roscoe Brown.
That it’s happening shouldn’t be too alarming. That it seems to be happening all at once, is. The last of the Great Generation’s dying embers are flicking and floating up to the skies as the 76.4-million Baby Boomers are starting to have to take those COPD ads very, very seriously. Combined, our country’s biggest multi-generational cohort is going to be mostly gone within the next decade (with the exception of the new face of evil, who won’t go soon enough.)
We shouldn’t feel too bad — after all their body of work speaks for itself and has left us with a time capsule of timeless pieces. Then again, what we are losing cannot be replaced.
These are people, you see, who came of age before or, later in life, perhaps with — technology. That’s not to say they were Luddites, all of them. Many invented it, leveraged it or at least found Machiavellian ways to put it in every palm from toddler on up. But those who grew up without seem to know something the rest of us whose lives are so intertwined with the sexy ephemera of constant useless stimulus and worthless information don’t: that our brains have been coded to filter and not remember. They realize we are missing something.
Namely, we are missing everything.
I was reminded of this yesterday while watching Vin Scully do his pregame preamble as the Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles were poised to square off in a rare Independence Day interleague treat.
Scully and his tie — this time a red, white and blue number to commemorate the day — uses the pregame soliloquy to get his pipes moving and usually it’s like flipping open a dusty old book and reading a snippet. Sometimes its off-the-cuff minutiae that somehow he threads into the moment. And other times, well, it’s a piece of living history sharing something from our shared past.
I’ll let him do the talking (yes, it’s worth clicking.)
Did you see that? Did you hear that? I defy anyone today who is blessed with the comfort and privilege of clutching a microphone in front of a camera to hold forth on a battle with the Brits during September 1814 over taxes, the origins of our national anthem and the amount, in today’s dollars, of a giant flag sewn for the occasion where the grand prize — at the cost of thousands of lives — was the mean streets of Baltimore.
Juxtapose that with a snippet of the Dan Patrick show I caught last Friday. Patrick, objectively one of today’s more prolific pontificators, was enumerating on the topic of the overpaid N.B.A. and how new TV money pumped into franchises combined with a higher salary cap is enabling second- or even third-tier free agents to demand the league maximum. The host had a wealth of information but most of that was delivered by his three or four henchmen interns, bored-looking white guys trolling the internets for facts, figures and numbers and delivered it to him through his earphones or on his screen — then went back to looking for babysitter porn.
Read more about Vin Scully here.
His talent is taking in all this information, fitting it into the topic at hand and then moving on; and he does it using his tongue as a whisk like a TV chef would when folding eggs into a batter.
But there’s also something a little off putting about the whole thing. And I didn’t realize it till I watched Vin. With Patrick and ESPN and whatever sportsblab stat-based sites, it’s just information in and information out. We love sports because of numbers and — more accurately — the human ability to live up to or defy those numbers once players take the field. It’s the one reminder that our lives, no matter how predictable on paper, are actually in a state of constant (un)controlled chaos.
But there’s something else too. Something life has almost entirely lost in this age that Vin still has. It’s the ability to see through the data barrage and find beauty and clarity in the crap, to conjure up and contextualize the great battles and the minor miracles of men that otherwise go unnoticed, to capture all the wonderful and terrible and all around fascinating…stuff people have done to, by and for one another — to get us here.
We have — literally — all the information in the world at our fingertips. And yet, we don’t seem to know much what to do with it, much less how to properly share it — even though sharing is what this whole experiment is supposed to be about.
It takes a man who came of age in the time of information, a man who read, observed and spent a career, a lifetime, informing to show …that it’s not how much you know — it’s how you use what you do.