A lesson in priorities


As a minimum-wage clerk in the sports department of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel years ago, one of my primary jobs was to answer the phones.
Before the advent of 24-hour sports cable news networks or the Internet, it was common for people to call the paper to get answers to trivia questions, settle bets, or simply voice an opinion. Some folks were such frequent callers they warranted nicknames. One of the most persistent was known to us simply as the “Yankee Man.”
If anything else in his life held any meaning or significance, the Yankee Man kept it a tightly guarded secret. We never found out his name, age, if he was married, had children, or walked on the moon for that matter. We just knew he loved the Yankees. Oh, how he loved the Yankees.
For him, no news involving his beloved team was too small or insignificant, no trade rumor too farfetched to want to discuss in detail and at length. Occasionally, the Yankee Man would call in to share some vital tidbit he had gleaned elsewhere, such as when a young prospect had a big night in some minor league game in Utica.
A minor leaguer. A few hits. Utica.
In all those years, there was only one time I can remember actually looking forward to taking his call. There was major news that night. Good news. It was October and the Yankees had just won the World Series.
I was eager to hear the Yankee Man’s reaction. Would he be excited, gloating and giddy? Would he be louder and more talkative than normal?
The phone rang. It was him. As always, he wanted to talk about his team. And even though I cannot remember exactly what he said that night, I will never forget what he didn’t say.
He never mentioned the World Series. Not a word. Instead, the Yankee Man called to ask about something inherently forgettable -- perhaps a rumored trade, or some minor league coach, an injured shortstop or the team’s recent switch to polyester-blend uniforms -- anything, except the biggest news in all of baseball.
If the Yankee Man was actually able to celebrate his team’s great success, it didn’t last long. From the moment the last out was made in the World Series until he picked up the phone to call the sports desk, perhaps 30-40 minutes later, the thrill was gone. In its place: concern, worry, uncertainty about the future.
I remember feeling sorry for him. How could he so badly overlook the big picture, the good news, to focus on the mundane and insignificant? How could his priorities be so fouled up?
It has been many years since I have answered phones on the sports desk. But I realize that I probably share more of the Yankee Man’s attitude than I would like to believe.
How good am I at living in the moment, at resting in God’s grace for today? How faithful am I in celebrating the miraculous, life-transforming victories that will last for eternity? And how often do I waste precious time and energy worrying about what might, or might not, come to pass?
And, when it comes down to it, the Yankee Man probably had good reason to worry about the road ahead for his beloved team. It has been on an uneven road for years. I have no such excuse.
The record book has already been written. The victory has been won.
And we do not need to call any newspaper for assurance.
Glenn Hannigan is editor of the North Georgia Advocate. You can e-mail him at glenn@advocate.org.