According to legend, a sportswriter asked baseball great Joe DiMaggio why he always played so hard. DiMag replied, “Because there could be a kid in the stands who never saw me play before.”
A lovely sentiment, from those pre-SportsCenter days when kids might see their hero play on only a single occasion, that such a hero would feel personally obligated to give his best.
That sentiment motivates my writing. Maybe there’s a kid who never read my writing before–a boy wondering why his football coach invokes religion and his priest sermonizes about football; a girl who’s been told she can’t bring novels to school. Maybe those kids encounter my scribblings before they’ve formulated the thought that their President is a tool of the rich and powerful or that their religious leaders are frauds or that their assistant principals are sadistic brutes.
Or maybe they’ve barely begun to formulate those thoughts, and maybe they need a voice to assure them those thoughts are okay. Maybe they need the voices that I had, the voices of Heller, Vonnegut, Orwell.
Or maybe they need my voice. Maybe I’m too old and cynical to change anything, but maybe those kids will change the world if and only if I can provide them the voice that says it’s okay to think those thoughts.
Incidentally, I don’t believe that the story about DiMaggio, a cramped, selfish man, was anything but a press agent’s fiction. I don’t believe in DiMaggio.
But I believe in those kids.