02.05.2018 | Fame ("Glory Days")

Ten years later and some fans in Philadelphia still talk about it. On October 29, 2008 Brad Lidge pitched the final out of the decisive game-five to win the World Series for the Phillies. This capped his perfect record in the regular season as closing pitcher. Brad had touched the very stars that year.

Brad will join us for Member Monday (2/5) as we try to imagine what it must be like to be famous, even momentarily, even among a contingent. In his novel Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow described the onset of fame: “I experienced the high voltage of publicity. It was like picking up a dangerous wire fatal to ordinary folk. It was like the rattlesnake handled by hillbillies in a state of religious exaltation.”

We ordinary folk will now have the opportunity to vicariously experience how it must be to handle that rattlesnake. It’s easy to project fame in merely two dimensions — the adulation, the privileges, the dispensations, the ever-present recognition. Only saints would seem to find obscurity ennobling. 

But maybe it looks a little different in reality’s three dimensions. What happens if and when the Glory Days moment eventually passes? Perhaps the public adulation even conceals a hard little rock of vindictiveness. We own you now; you belong to us, on our terms. The answer may lie in the nature of the fame i.e. the earned fame in the case Brad versus the narcissism that marks mere celebrity. In any case it seems peculiar to wish to have a million strangers monitor one’s life.

How then does one deal with fame’s evanescence? Brad joined us for our Member Monday (12/4) discussion on The Fate of Empires, not as a famous pitcher, but as the accomplished student of archeology specializing in the Roman Empire. The ultimate measure of a famous person’s true worth may actually lie in second acts.

Then, here on the ground, we may share and compare our own Glory Days (even those of our own mind). What were they, what was the experience of the journey on the way up and, more interestingly, what grace did we we exhibit on the way down?

Steve SmithComment