Une raison d’etre

This post really isn’t about actual research or writing or history or anything. It’s about the researchers and writers and historians themselves. And I’ll be as delicate as possible as I write …

As I delve deeper into my still-nascent career as a Negro Leagues journalist and researcher, I’ve had three general goals: have fun, help inform people about the rich history of African Americans (and occasionally other ethnicities — I’m looking at you, Lip Pike) in baseball, and try to make a living.

On the first count, I can unequivocally say I’ve achieved it. On the second count, all I can say is I hope I’ve been able to do even a little bit of good. On the third count … no comment.

“No comment.” I heard that a lot in my previous life as an investigative news reporter. I encountered a lot, too, much of it stuff that made me shiver, feel like I had to take a shower after work, and just shake my head with an ever-growing resigned cynicism.

(And I’m not counting being a huge fan of the Indiana University football team. But doing that has has pretty much the same affect. One bowl invite in 21 seasons! C’mon, how hard is it to win six games?!?!? Six games!)

Yep, much of the work I have done in my journalistic career has made me a die-hard, disenchanted cynic.

I’ve just seen too much greed, fear, selfishness, jealousy and downright paranoia not to be one. I long ago lost any hope and faith in our government, our economic system, our religions, our educational facilities, our law enforcement, our military … pretty much all of society, quite frankly.

That’s what 10 years as an investigative journalist has done to me. Not to get too esoteric, but I’ve lost faith in our species, in humanity itself.

That’s why I had to stop what I was doing. I couldn’t be around any of that anymore, couldn’t write or report about it. It was killing me, and I grew to loathe it. I walked away. Done. I’d been, as the Metallica song says, broken, beat and scarred. And in many ways, it’s been for the rest of my life.

But I found my salvation somewhere. I found a place and a state of mind and a community and a life’s purpose that in many ways brought me back to life, renewed my faith in the possibility of basic human goodness, courage and passion.

The Negro Leagues.

More specifically, researching, writing about and sharing the story of the Negro Leagues. In this pursuit, I’ve found a community of folks who have the joy and the enthusiasm and the togetherness that I’d thought had disappeared completely from our society. There’s an atmosphere of sharing and open-heartedness and charity that has enriched my life and, at least in some small way, renewed my zest in my career and my relationships.

However, every once in a while, I see some of the stuff from my old life seep to the surface. Little flashes of distrust. Touches of envy. Hints of animosity.

These times are very limited in general, mind you, and certainly are compared to the dirty political and business world in which I immersed myself for so long.

But regardless, each time I see such moments, I feel a reflexive twinge of sadness, a fleeting remembrance of my painful past life. And it’s very disheartening.

However, I know that nothing can be a perfect utopia. Such things don’t exist and never will, certainly not on this plane of existence. Even if the Negro Leagues has given me hope in humanity, I know that all of us are, indeed, only human. Nothing and no one existence today is perfect.

And that’s probably a good thing, too. If everything and everyone was perfect, for what would we strive? Toward what goal would we work, what purpose would be have? Imperfection and the challenges it brings are why we live life — to face them and overcome them, then go on to the next challenge.

And regardless of any differences we might have, we are all united in the same purpose: To, shall I say, spread the gospel, the truth, the wonderfulness of the Negro Leagues and the African-American experience in our national pastime.

I should note, nay, stress that the Negro Leagues haven’t been my only source of inspiration and strength. My family, friends and loved ones have kept me afloat, kept me moving forward, kept my spirit up countless times. Without them, I would be nowhere, and for that I am eternally and fervently grateful.

Likewise, though, I’m also unbelievably grateful for everyone who has supported me, encouraged me and just plain befriended me in the Negro Leagues community, and there definitely have been many. I feel so blessed to have come into contact with so many people who exude so much love, support and grace. It’s come close to divinity for me.

It has, quite simply, kept me alive. All of you have. Thank you. 🙂

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