In the last few days:
Greg Norman leads the British Open.
Franklin Raines offered advice for Fannie Mae.
John Ashcroft said that waterboarding isn’t so bad.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that “There are no second acts in American lives.” Even a great writer can be wrong. But while some of the second acts are marvelous, others should close quickly.
Among all sports, baseball pays the most frequent tribute to its historic stars, and the mythologies grow with each appearance. Seeing baseball legends like Ford, Berra, Jackson and so many others gathered at the 2008 All Star Game last week was evidence of the hold the “national pastime” has on our collective imagination and affection, even in this era when the business of baseball has been rocked by the steroid scandal. Even George Steinbrenner, the cantankerous and now-reclusive owner of the New YorkYankees received reverent reviews for his appearance at the All Star Game, the last big moment for the historic Yankee Stadium (unless the Yankees somehow manage to get into the World Series, which would be yet another marvel!). The new Yankee Stadium, rising in the shadow of its legendary namesake, will take years to develop the patina of memory and mythology that envelopes the original ballpark.
The absence of Tiger Woods from the British Open (due to knee surgery) means that other golfers have a chance to win — and who would have imagined that the venerable Greg Norman, once the world’s #1 golfer (waaayyy back in the 1980’s!), could top the leaderboard on the first day on the links in Scotland.
While second, third and fourth acts for sports heroes are pure entertainment, disgraced business leaders should probably stay out of the limelight in comfortable retirement. The Washington Post devoted many column inches on Wednesday to former Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines: a gentle “lifestyle”-type article in the Business Section let readers in on what life is like after being forced out in an accounting scandal (Raines settled with the feds and adamantly denies any improper conduct), and then an opinion piece he penned on the same day offered Mr. Raines’ wisdom on how to solve the economic meltdowns at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Go figure. With respect, he might better keep working on shaving points off his golf handicap.
But perhaps the least welcome comeback-of-the-week was the appearance of former Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating the actions of the Justice Department on interrogations. He said that waterboarding is not torture, and defended this ugly practice as a valuable interrogation tool. The first act was bad enough; the curtain should ring down immediately before this second act gets worse.
Come to think of it, the best second acts are in sports and theaters. Real-life actors whose time has passed should take their bows and exit stage left (or right, as they may be inclined…).