Sports and Education – Thanks, Vin Scully!

Okay, some of you are going to be asking “why?” Why am I offering you an article about Vin Scully, the TV and radio announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers for over 60 years? What does Vin Scully have to do with education?

Let’s start with the fact that I am, and have always been, a theater geek and a bit of a nerd. I’ve spent my life doing theater and music, and teaching. Fortunately, though, at a very early age, I first heard the thoughtful, highly educated voice of Vin Scully.

Vinny started his career when the L.A. Dodgers were still the Brooklyn Dodgers. I live in Los Angeles, however, and it was there that I first came to understand some things about life. One of those things is that art, sports, and other “non-essentials” are far more than the “spice of life”. Baseball, basketball, painting, poetry, theater, music and the like are an expression of the best that mankind is capable of. Such displays of man and woman triumphing over the limits which our lives, our bodies, our universe impose are as important a testament to who we can be as were the discoveries of gravity, the development of calculus, and the launching of a rocket with men aboard to the moon.

I kid you not. I believe that reading King Lear, listening to a Mozart opera or Bach fugue, or watching Fred and Ginger dance is to observe the excellence that we are all capable of. These artists and thousands of others demonstrate to us just how high the humanity bar can be set. They do so as surely as a great statesman, a great soldier, or a great scientist.

And so, too, did Willie Mays, when he caught that ball over his shoulder on the dead run toward the outfield fence. So did Maury Wills, stealing his hundredth base. So did my favorite baseball player ever, Sandy Koufax, when he arose every fifth day to pitch with surreal excellence, in spite of the fact that his arm felt like falling off by the end of a game, forcing him to soak it in ice.

Baseball taught me math. I learned to understand percentages and basic math at the feet of the greatest baseball announcer ever, Vin Scully, as he talked player statistic after statistic. I learned to respect individual accomplishment, perseverance,and the triumph of one’s will over the limits of the body, as Vinny painted exquisite word pictures day after day of players and their exploits on the field. I learned that courage comes in all shapes and sizes, a lesson taught me by Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey through their determined effort to desegregate baseball, as Vin Scully related the tale with clear reverence in his voice. I learned that people of all races and from all nations were to be honored, as Vinny clearly honored them. I learned to respect education itself, as Vinny himself is truly educated and peppers his comments with cultural tid-bits that most likely soar over the head of many of his adoring listeners.

And by the by, I learned that even though I am a bit of a theater geek and nerd, an educator and a writer, that it was perfectly alright to stretch my interests (with intensity) to areas one would not normally associate with one of my kind. Vinny taught me to love sports. (Chick Hearn helped. I can’t watch a Laker game without hearing his voice in my head, and I watch a lot of Laker games.) I have to admit that I love sports best when the Dodgers or Lakers win, and on those rare days when they both win, life is good.

This morning, Vinny announced he’s coming back for a record 63rd season, and as an educator I could not have been more pleased. Along with millions of others, I see Vinny as the voice of baseball, a calm yet enthusiastic, educated yet worldly, devoted yet critical commentator and illuminator of the game. He will lead other children, as he has done for decades, to love math, love sports, love high achievement, and yes, even love humanity and its potential. As an educator, I see his return as a big win for human potential and sanity and baseball and the Dodgers, and life is good.

JANUARY 2013 – Vinny’s back again for another season, and all is right with the world!  You MUST read this beautiful story about what he said recently.  He is simply wonderful, and remains a great educator.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgersnow/la-sp-dn-dodgers-vin-scully-steals-show-at-scouts-fundraiser-20130113,0,6092632.story

 

7 comments for “Sports and Education – Thanks, Vin Scully!

  1. Van Heerling
    August 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Steven, Your article has given me a new perspective regarding the importance of sports. I am an artist, a writer in fact. Recently my wife and I found out we are expecting a baby boy. Needless to say we are overjoyed! But with this excitement I cannot help but think of my father. He died of a massive heart attack at the age of fifty-two when I was sixteen. I remember playing catch with him literally one time in my entire life. It simply was not a priority. Am I malnourished as a person because of this? Maybe. Probably. But for the most part I think I turned out okay.
    As I move into the next major phase of my life, fatherhood, I will not make this same blunder. My son will know the “crack” of the bat as it smashes the ball far into center field. He will know the “swish” of the basketball net from thirty feet away. He will know what a Dodger Dog tastes like.
    Your perspective on sports and education, for me, is about connecting with the ones we love. I hope that it inspires many. And I wish you success.
    Van H.
    http://www.vanheerlingbooks.com

  2. August 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks, Van, that’s lovely! All the best with the child to come, and please consider homeschooling! It provides a family an enormous opportunity for “quality time”.

    • Van Heerling
      August 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you. And yes I am considering it. I have your site saved as a Fav.

  3. Greg Gamble
    December 23, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Great perspective Steven, especially coming from someone grounded in the liberal arts. Im in the trades, and as Ive told each of our 4 kids as we have educated them, my love of the liberal arts has given me the sharpness of intellect to extract extra value from my love of sports and hands on skills. Im seeing it pay off too. I have a 16 yr old son who is a kinetic type, passionate about motocross,snowboarding and soccer/camping/cars/electronic toys, and doesn’t naturally lean toward literature,art etc. But he listens,and has taught himself to analyse everything from a functional and philosophical viewpoint. As a result, he paces himself as he learns, and has become the go to guy for most of his friends and family when they need advice or help to learn how to learn things he is good at.
    By the way, if you want your kids to appreciate geometry, teach them to play snooker/billiards and bowling. Practically visualizing each angle shot is a great way to naturalize abstract concepts. We go out on family pool and bowling dates, and each of my kids can give me a run for my money on the tables and lanes. I hate bowling by the way, even though Im pretty good at it.
    Once again, homeschooling has absolutely nothing to do with school and everything to do with personal development, and relational enrichment. Im not sure if you have ever mentioned it in your posts but I will here because it seems relevant.
    Apparently, the word SCHOOL comes from an ancient Greek word meaning to sit around at leisure and listen to educated guys talk to you about stuff they think you should know. The Greek form of education the west has adopted is false learning in that it is heavily imbalanced in favor of mental development at the expense of all else. It produces pride of knowledge at a young age, when in fact, those supposedly knowledgeable young people still dont have many well developed real life skills that contribute to personal development and competitiveness. We measure our childrens true education by how resourceful they are in a challenging situation.
    Can they navigate all manner of social environments, including dangerous ones? Can they provide food, clothing and transportation for themselves during scarcity? Can they collaborate with any personality type to build something necessary that cant be built alone? Can the research a topic outside their knowledge base or experience? Can they self diagnose their own mental, emotional, spiritual and physical state?
    We consider these outcomes to be essential basic training for all children by age 16. If they lack functional understanding and skills in any of these areas, they are not ready to enter the adult world without some form of crutch, which makes them vulnerable to being taken advantage of.
    Thanks again and again Steven for your passion for defending our young ones from exploitation.
    Greg

    • December 28, 2011 at 8:08 am

      Hi Greg,

      I appreciate the kind words and interesting ideas! I agree with your measurement of our children’s profgress, overall. One should be able to DO something with the education received in order to improve one’s own life and the lives of others. Otherwise I’m not sure what purpose education serves.

      I meant what I said. Vinny taught me to LOVE and understand baseball. Chick Hearn did the same for me, with basketball. Since 1966, I’ve been a die-hard (and we do die hard) fan of both the Dodgers and Lakers, thanks to those two men, and it has added a dimension of joy and involvement to my life I cannot imagine being without. Such men are truly great educators in my opinion. We should honor them while they are amongst us.

  4. Emmanuel Garcia
    January 12, 2013 at 3:15 am

    I love your line, “Baseball taught me math.” You’ve hit another homerun, Steven!

    • January 12, 2013 at 6:56 am

      Thanks, Emmanuel! I could have written this again late in the baseball season last year, when Vinny announced he was coming back. (I happened to be at that game!) And to his (and my) great joy, the Dodgers have new ownership and actually look pretty great this year! That’s got to make Vinny’s decision to come back feel good to him, and many children will be the beneficiaries.

      he Dodgers have taught me many lessons. Since ’89, they’ve taught me humility…

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