Jose We Hardly Knew Ye

I should be writing about the election, but the field is pretty crowded right now with others doing that and the death of Jose Fernandez still weights heavy. I’ve already posted a warning to young folks that some mistakes can only be made once. I’ve watched the post death first game and was struck deeply by the raw emotions of one and all, young and old. I was hit hardest by Eduardo Perez’ statement that as least he died in freedom. Ive listened to the epitaphs and statements of what he meant to the game and his never to be forgotten impact on it. Also the calls for memorials. What I haven’t heard is where I want to start.

Let me start with three points. One is Mark “The Bird” Fidriych. Remember him? Probably not unless you are in your late 40’s or 50’s. He was the Jose of back then. A sensation pure and simple kid. Loved by all.

Then came Fernando mania. Remember him? He was the Mexican Jose without of course the escape attempts to freedom. Ask a 15 year old about him who lives in say Fargo, ND. You’ll get a blank stare.

The third point is to make sure you get the first two. There are precious few who gain “forever” status. And fewer yet are athletes. Jose’s “forever” status will have a bit longer shelf life than many, but not much past the sub-teens and up who experienced him. It’s the nature of the human beast, especially the American human beast. Just like we dropped the yo-yo and went to the hula hoop and dropped that for the next hot item, a generation will grow up who knew not Joseph, or in this case, Jose, and they will worship at someone else’s shrine. But the moral here is that they should have known (remembered the legacy of) Joseph, it would have served them well.

Back in the days of the pyramids to do that remembering was tougher than today. You had to draw pictures or paint them on rocks and hope someone saw them. Today it is far easier to take the moral and etch it into people’s minds. This is the job of the Marlins and Major League Baseball. They must distill Jose down to his essence and then do things to make that essence the forever for Jose.

I would pick two things just to start the discussion. Let’s drill down deeper than fun-loving, enthusiastic, talented. This was a kid, and he was, who wouldn’t take no for an answer. He risked his life to be free. Something needs to be crafted for all the young refugees in America about hope, dreams and success and maybe even by the voice of America for those who haven’t made it past their dreams of being free.

The other is that uncharacteristically for his age group he had a natural gift for giving–of himself, his time, his money. He knew what he had and he did everything and anything to give back. He was a walking emblem for the Golden Rule.

Now the question. How do you make these basic, wonderful qualities–not his G-d given talents–into a living legacy. Here’s how and it harks back to another blog written about how athletes, especially athletes of color, can pool their wealth to help the underclass get into the middle class and do it in a safe, secure, livable environment.

The answer is again how money is used. And here again. as starters, are a few thoughts for those of power and influence. Again the answer is had through a foundation effort. In the savoring of freedom category either donate money to the Voice of America specifically to bring a word of hope as well as an understanding of freedom, that freedom isn’t just a word, it’s an ideal to risk one’s life for. Or….begin the Jose Fernandez Youth Fund specifically aimed at immigrant youth getting a solid educational underpinning so that if that don’t have Fernandez’ G-d given athletic skills they are ready for the other world that is open to them.

Then we come to philanthropy. This was a kid with a good heart. He did things with as little publicity as possible, or none at all. He knew his presence could overwhelm the recipient and hinder his gift having the meaning it was intended to have. How about a program for high school youth on the hows and whys of philanthropy so that we might raise of a generation that knows the hows and why of giving back, that it is better to give than receive?

It’s many weeks past his death now. Except in sports and the Fernandez’s intimate circles the din has begun to quiet, totally over shadowed by the baseball playoffs that don’t involve the Marlins, the NFL pushing into high gear, and the NBA setting up shop. Oh yes, there’s this election thing going on as well… The wound has begun to form scabs and scar tissue. They’ll be another round of angst at the beginning of next season but then what? Not too long after his memory will be remembered as a blessing, but it will begin to get harder and harder to generate making that blessing more concrete than a memory.

What a waste that would be!





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