When I was 8 years old, I absolutely loved baseball. I watched it all the time, collected baseball cards like they were actually worth something, and I played entire baseball games by myself (and a bunch of ghost runners) in the lot behind my house because I didn’t have 17 friends to round out the teams. I was also the best player on my Little League team – best pitcher, best hitter, best umpire, best waterboy, my mom brought the best snacks, everything. It was the perfect American life for the perfect Midwestern boy.
Until that fateful day when I became less than perfect. I remember it like it was 28 years ago. My mom took me to the grocery store, which must have been way more painful for her than for me because I wanted everything and hadn’t quite grasped the concept of living on a budget yet. So I asked Mom to get me some new baseball cards, and she said no. Thinking that maybe she hadn’t heard me, I asked more loudly. Again she said no. Now certain that my mother had suddenly decided to stop loving me, I’m pretty sure I yelled at her and cried a little bit. But that only made her love me even less, because again she said no. What was an unloved 8-year old to do?
Steal some baseball cards, of course. While my mom was paying in the checkout line I pocketed a package of shiny new baseball cards and walked out without care. I felt like a king!
And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had not yet mastered lying. Because when my mom saw me playing with a brand new pack of baseball cards she had not bought me, she asked, “Where did those come from?” And instead of answering with a suave and collected, “I saved them from the last time you bought me baseball cards, because I wanted to savor the experience and not expend all my joy in a single sitting,” I looked at her like I was about to get eaten. My mother sensed my weakness and pounced, and I confessed to the entire sordid crime.
So she drove us back to the grocery store and made me give the baseball cards back and apologize to the store manager. I was crushed and humiliated. I thought my life was over.
But it got even worse. Three years later I tried out for my junior high baseball team – and while I made the team, I was inexplicably a third-stringer. Almost everyone was better than I was. We made it to the playoffs, but I got picked off at first base and basically lost the game for everyone, which I’m pretty sure is why I had absolutely no luck with the ladies in junior high.
Then, a few years after that, I was watching baseball on television when I had a sudden epiphany: baseball is oppressively boring. The pitcher takes forever to throw the stupid thing, and then 90% of the time nothing happens, so we have to wait forever to watch nothing happen the second time. I found myself turning to nature programs, public zoning hearings, and self-produced local access TV shows instead of baseball. Somehow, my love for the game had died. And it’s all because I stole those baseball cards all those years ago.
Many would simply chalk these events up to coincidence, but I know the truth. So don’t steal, OK? Because if you do, your children will never be major league ballplayers, which means they won’t be able to subsidize your retirement, which means you’ll probably be working until you’re 82.
I hope you take this advice to heart. Because I really don’t want to see you greeting me at Wal-Mart 50 years from now.
Author’s Note: I don’t actually think that my stealing baseball cards caused me to eventually realize that baseball is really boring. But I do think that small ethical problems, like this one, can end up being a bigger deal than any of us think. New York City thinks so, at least. Read this to learn more.
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