Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

No Corvette for Second Place

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

No Corvette for Second Place

Article excerpt

Our wild applause, boisterous cheers and cascading adulation for Sammy Sosa has all the authenticity of crocodile tears.

We are, sad to report, a nation of phonies.

Do we care - as in really care - that Sosa earlier this week hit his 62nd home run to best Roger Maris's 61 in 1961? Nope. On the other hand, did we care - as in really care - when almost a fortnight ago, Mark Mc-Gwire hit his 62nd to become the first to surpass Maris's record? Yup.

This is because what we aspire to is being first and phooey on everything else. Winners get crowns and cash and losers are chopped liver.

McGwire had a nation at his biceps, via national TV, when he plinked No. 62. It was nutty fun. The Maris family was there. McGwire got a red 1962 Corvette from the Cardinals in the classiest gift- giving gesture ever. Sosa stood in the Cubs' outfield and applauded with genuineness, then rushed to home plate to gather a hug from Mighty Mc. The nation was in tears.

The Maris family and baseball commissioner Bud Selig were on hand and camera-ready for McGwire's monstrous feat. None was present for Sosa's monstrous feat. Oh, sure, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was there but he's everywhere, having not missed a national event of any stripe since a botched plane connection kept him from Martin Van Buren's inauguration.

All Sosa got was a call from Bill Clinton, presumably biting his lip during the conversation. Talk about unfairness.

The reason McGwire got the whole enchilada and Sosa a long- distance chat is that we not only are a nation bent on first, but we don't even want to think about second. What child in America grows up dreaming of being vice president or winning a silver medal in the Olympics?

Lombardi never said, "Second isn't everything, it's the only thing."

After all, if second is good, why is Genesis enormously better known than Exodus? Michael Jordan is the highest- paid pro basketball player, but who is second? Cy Young leads baseball in innings pitched. Second is? The Packers won the first Super Bowl in 1967, but who won the second? Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in 1927. Second was? Neil Armstrong was first man on the moon. …

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