Obligatory Ted Williams Post: The Real Message

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You’ve all heard of Ted Williams. Not the baseball player who is cryogenically frozen, the homeless man turned Radio Personality and media darling.

His story is inspiring. But it’s also really depressing. Why?

The book / movie about Michael Oher (Go Ravens!), The Blind Side, tells the true story of a homeless, gentle giant who can play football. His background is typical for an inner city mionority. His parents were incapable of raising him or his siblings.

In the southern hospitality tradition, an affluent, influential family takes him in and raises him as their own. They help him with his school work and his football. Overall, he is a success and winds up in the NFL and an anchor player on a team that has been in the playoffs in each of his first two seasons. It’s a great story. Read the book, see the movie. Either way, it’s a powerful story

What is the real message of the story? Leigh Anne Tuohy, the real woman who adopted Oher in real life says:

There are a million Michaels. Not every kid has the potential to become a star player in the NFL, but that kid may be the person who grows up to cure cancer, or who becomes a great husband or wife to someone.

The “Michaels” are living in horrible conditions with little to no chance of discovering their gifts and talents. Theirs is a life of survival. And many do not.

The urban, gang riddled centers of our cities is sacrificing their youth. And lest you think it’s not YOUR problem, it is. The cure for cancer is in one of their potential lives. The next great discovery is being lost because so many of our youth don’t have the opportunity to hone their skills and talents.

There are a million Michaels. Their plight is a social problem that affects all of us. Too many intelligent, charismatic people are lost to the inner city.

Ted Williams is another exception. He was homeless. He had no shot at a better life. His talents would have remained hidden too. But he got lucky.

We can’t rely on the good fortune which befell Micheal Oher and Ted Williams to save an entire generation of lost minds.

I will never forget the enduring message of the ubiquitous PSA from the United Negro College Fund. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste“. When I was a kid, I heard that slogan a million times. One time for each of the million Michaels.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Yet, as a society, we do it all the time…

To me, that is the real, and depressing, message of the Ted Williams story.

Here is the original UNCF PSA:

  • it is not just the homeless who suffer from this. most people, even those with jobs and families will most likely go through life without their unique talents being discovered. They are just too busy living life, earning a living, supporting their family, paying the mortgage, to pursue their real dreams, to develop their real talents.

    • But at least they are contributing to society…

      and they have a shot at “making a difference”.

  • Unrelated, I think he was arrested today.

    • He was detained by the LAPD last night and was released already.

  • Right answer, wrong question. Ted Williams messed up his own life with drugs, according to the story I watched. He comes from a “normal” family and had opportunity. By always blaming society, you’re removing personal culpability.

    • So I’ve heard.

      Look, I don’t care how it happened. Point is the same. We (you, me and everyone else) has an interest in the success of those who are unsuccessful for whatever reason. When talented people fail or never even know that they can contribute to society, it hurts you and me.

  • Isn’t Ted Williams from a good healthy family. A family that provided for him and even sent him to school to hone his talents? He brought shame on himself. He was not thrown into a life of homelessness and drugs. He chose to become that person. I don’t see a poor man a taken in by a loving public; I see a failure given a second chance (which is a good lesson too).

  • Leslie

    This man seems very charismatic though troubled. I wish him the best, but am a little tired of the philosophy that somehow society “done him wrong” or owes him something. Productive working people are pressed and stressed just to stay afloat and do the best for their families, while so much of one’s earnings go toward government programs that make it easier for illegal aliens and others who drain our economy. Just today on the news there was something about Illinois income taxes going up 66%. I hope Ted Williams makes good with his new opportunities. Most of us are not in a position to offer lucrative work opportunities or take in those that are less fortunate like the Tuohy family did. At what point does personal responsibility get any air time?

    • Personal responsibility gets air time when inner city kids can make
      choices instead of just fending for their survival.