Reading about the passing of Barry Bremen, a.k.a. "The Great Imposter," brought up several thoughts to me this morning. Bremen was known for showing up at events such as professional baseball and basketball games, somehow getting on the field or court and acting as if he were a participant. He took part in the warm-ups prior to an NBA All-Star game, caught batting practice fly balls at Yankee Stadium, and -- my favorite -- showed up for the pre-game home plate meeting of managers and umpires during a World Series. He was dressed as an umpire. Bremen even accepted an Emmy award for an actress who did not get to the stage before he showed up.
This guy was too much.
Reading today about Bremen and his exploits, I thought back to a few years ago when I attended "FanFest" held on the fake grass playing surface at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. As I wandered around looking at the people lined up for autographs of Rays players, booths selling baseball cards and other similar items, and kids waiting their turn to take a few batting practice swings as a Rays staffer tossed wiffle balls, I noticed a guy on the edge of middle age in the left field corner. He wore his ball glove and was, with great energy and enthusiasm, throwing a baseball against the padded outfield wall, fielding the rebounds. "Why is he doing that?"
Maybe he always wanted to play baseball in a major league stadium, and this was his big opportunity. Maybe he hoped a Rays official, seeing his dedication and skill, might offer him a contract. Maybe he wanted others to think he was a real player getting in a workout. Maybe he was taking out untold frustrations. I didn't interrupt him to ask about his intentions.
My own youth was filled with notions of a baseball career, but probably deep down I knew I didn't possess the skill and dedication required to make it to the major leagues. It was fun to consider, though, and I have thought at times I should have stayed with it when I was in college. In a conversation about this with a friend who actually did play in the major leagues, he remarked, "There is no sense in regretting not doing something that really isn't that great."
Reading about Barry Bremen, I thought there are numerous ways we pretend to be someone besides who we really are, either to impress others or maybe even to deceive ourselves. Is the grass always greener on the other side? Does our culture encourage us to yearn for something artificial? In that yearning, are we in danger of missing the beauty and meaning that can be found in authentic relationships, based in reality, with others and our Creator?
Seems to me we often, unfortunately, are willing to take that chance.