Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton Moskowitz

It didn't get much tighter than this.
Bottom of the eighth. Score tied. Two outs. Three men on base. Our pitcher's curve ball had just made it three balls and two strikes. The hometown crowd in the Kingdome was going wild.
I wasn't exactly jumping up and down, but I was paying attention. So were the dozen or so cub scouts camped next to me.
The pitcher threw a fast ball that wasn't quite fast enough. A swing and a loud pop suddenly became a high fly into left field. Even as the batter sprinted toward first, the outfielder's eyes never left that sailing white sphere as it arced toward him. Three steps forward and it was in his glove.
The crowd erupted and for a moment I thought they might mob the field. But the emotion subsided, and soon the familiar background ambiance of "Hot dogs! Get yer hot dogs!" could be heard once again.
"Mrs. Edwards! Mrs. Edwards! Can we stay and get his autograph?" The excited face of an 8-year-old cub scout one row down looked hopefully at the woman sitting next to me.
"We'll see," she said.
"Looks like you've got your hands full," I said, just to be friendly. She was undoubtedly one of the mothers corralling this group of wild young ponies.
She laughed. "They're a handful, that's for sure," she said.
We waited as the teams set up for next inning. Then suddenly, she turned to me.
"You know," she said, "it's amazing how much greatness people attach to such a little thing."
Surprised, I turned back to her. "What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, would you say that these boys - in fact, a lot of people in this stadium - think that the outfielder who made that catch is a great person?"
"I suppose so. He's one of the most highly paid baseball players in history."
"Right," she said. "But have you ever wondered why they think he's great?"
"Well, because he's a great outfielder."
"Yes, but what does an outfielder do?"
Surely she understood the game better than that. "I'm not quite sure what you mean," I replied.
"Look," she said. "I'm no expert, but it seems to me that an outfielder stands out in the field, waits for the ball to be hit, evaluates its path while it's still moving, and in a split second decides the best way to catch it and pass it on to someone else. Am I right?
"Well, sure."
"So, suppose he can do it. Is that really such a great thing? Does that make him a great person? Just because he can catch a ball in the air, say, nine times out of ten? I mean, why do people get so worked up about someone who can do that?"
I thought about trying to enlighten her. Except that I couldn't think of anything enlightening to say.
"Actors and actresses are the same way," she went on. "Have you ever thought about what they really do?"
"You mean, star in movies?"
"Yes, but think about the activity. They duplicate emotions. They adjust their faces, hands, and bodies to imitate emotional reactions. Now I ask you. Is that ability - taken without all of the Hollywood hype - something to idolize?"
I wasn't sure if she was just letting off mental steam or preparing for a lecture to the scouts. Either way, I couldn't argue with her point.
"It's crazy," she said. "As a society, we take certain skills - and not even very worthwhile or important skills at that - and elevate them to a level far beyond their practical use. And then we idolize those who practice them. How did we get like this?"
She was looking out at the field now, talking more to herself than to me.
"I mean, how can you compare that outfielder with, say, a brain surgeon?" she went on. "At the end of his life, the brain surgeon can at least say, 'I saved the lives of hundreds of people'. What can that outfielder say? I caught hundreds of fly balls?"
"Besides," she said, turning back to look at me, "you'll notice that he only has to catch one ball at a time. Do you know what they would call him if he had to catch a dozen balls all at once, coming at him from all directions?"
"Uh, no."
She smiled. "A den mother."