David McCullough Jr. wants his students to stop expecting that everything will be handed to them. He wants the idea of 'everybody gets a trophy' to end.
The Wellesley (Mass.) High School English teacher gave a controversial -- yet somewhat needed -- commencement speech entitled ‘You Are Not Special.’ He advised students to drop the false sense of achievement paradigm that has emerged in modern society and schools.
So the relevance here lies in this: He told his students to not be like the Baltimore Orioles. His message encouraged students to avoid comparisons to mediocrity, and the O’s were the parallel he drew.
“Statistics tell us half of you will get divorced,” he said in the speech. “A winning percentage like that will get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.”
“Don't bother with work you don't believe in any more than you would a spouse you're not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.”
For starters, an 81-win team doesn’t finish in the cellar of any division, so McCullough’s knowledge of baseball surely doesn’t span as far as he believes. The Orioles haven’t ended a season at or above .500 since 1997, so his less-than-stellar attempt at a comedic sports reference is factually incorrect. The Orioles really haven’t been better than weddings in 15 years.
But now, things are looking a little different for baseball in Baltimore, yet they still get no love. Maybe the last decade-and-a-half of 60- and 70-win seasons has earned the Orioles a spot as a commencement-speech punching bag.
However, those same Orioles that McCullough attempts to mock sit just a game out of first place in the AL East and occupy the second of two wild-card spots in the American League.
Those same Orioles are currently four games up on the Boston Red Sox and have bested Bobby Valentine’s squad six times in nine tries this season.
Those same Orioles dominated Boston last September, winning five of seven contests that month to help cement one of baseball’s ultimate September collapses.
The Orioles haven’t done much of anything yet. It’s June, and there’s plenty of games to be played. But still, Baltimore is witnessing some of the best baseball it has seen in more than a decade, led by an exciting young core of talent that is looking as bright as ever.
So by McCullough’s message, kids shouldn’t look back on their parents accomplishments and expect the same to happen to them. They shouldn’t expect instant gratification for even the most miniscule achievements.
These Orioles don’t have to look back and accept the mediocrity that has preceded them, but they shouldn’t be complacent with success 60 games into a season.
McCullough wants his students to look ahead and pave a path for themselves. Perhaps he should have referenced the Orioles in regards to creating a future for themselves, instead of as a benchmark for failure, because it seems like exactly what this upstart group of ballplayers is doing.