All the recent media attention on the Taney Dragons, who practice just down the street from our house, gave me an opportunity to talk to my boys about the importance of humility.
While my son Maxon and I were having lunch outside on Wednesday, we overheard someone talking about Mo'ne Davis on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
In case you are just emerging from a coma, Davis plays for the Taney Dragons, the Philadelphia team that is killing it in the Little League World Series, despite a loss last night to Nevada.
"Everyone is talking about Mo'ne," Maxon said.
"She's so famous. She's on magazines and she was on John Oliver! I want to be loved by John Oliver! He's so funny! I want him to say, 'Maxon Raphael, I love this boy!' "
I understand Maxon's desire. And I imagine that to him, Mo'ne's fame seems a little more tangible. Mo'ne practices with the Anderson Monarchs down the street from our house. Maxon watched kids from the Taney 12U team play during the regular baseball season. His brother Ezra plays for the Taney Dragons in the 7U division. And no doubt he is impressed, as many people are, by the young lady who is able to pitch two shutouts in a row.
But what do I say to the desire for fame?
"What do you think being on the cover of a magazine would give you?"
"People would respect me."
"There are plenty of ways to earn respect that don’t involve fame or magazines."
"Sure. But magazines are one way."
Yeah, I'm a little worried about his focus on the fame and not on the work that went behind it. I explained to Maxon that Mo'ne is getting this kind of attention and respect because she works hard, stays focused, plays with precision and posseses an elegant humility.
Humility is an important character trait – valued highly in Judaism, as evidenced when God denied Moses entry into Israel for claiming ownership of producing water from stone. Moses may not have meant to imply he was the force behind such a miracle, but God punished him harshly just the same. I experienced a similar shame on a smaller scale when I was young, and my father didn’t have to punish me twice for boasting.
Humility is something I want my boys to understand as well, harder and harder in these days of "like" hoarding and celebrity worship. But humility doesn’t look like the cover of Sports Illustrated or a shout out from John Oliver or the way people stop Ezra on the street when they see him in his Taney Dragons uniform ("You play for the Dragons? Do you know Mo'ne?").
And humility wasn't how Maxon reacted when he saw himself on TV – which is what happened when an Action News crew came to film Ezra and his Taney Dragons buddies playing ball Monday afternoon. If you follow Maxon on Instagram, you know how that played out. He posted five videos of our television screen.
So on the way to parkour, I brought up the subject again.
"Do you guys know what humility means? Being humble?"
They said yes, but then couldn’t explain it to me.
"It means not thinking you're better than anyone else," I said.
"But what if you are the best on the team?" asked Ezra, who could probably use this lesson more than his brother. The child is not short on confidence. But the line between confident and cocky can be hard to describe.
"Do you think Mo'ne thinks she's the best on her team?"
"No," Ezra said.
"Do you think Mo'ne would say she works hard?"
They both agreed.
"So what do you think is more important?" I asked.
"Working hard," said Maxon. After parkour, we drove home in a hurry, rushing to catch the game between Taney and Nevada.
"I decided I don't want to be famous," Maxon said.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because magazines could write a lot of lies about you."
"That is true."
"But if I happen to get famous, you know, from working hard? I won't stop it."