Sorry to be curt, but no pity for Schilling
Those of us with a conscience try very hard not to revel in someone else’s misfortune.
That’s easily done when the person in question is an average Joe or Josephine. In those cases, most of us can sincerely sympathize with the affected person because we envision his or her plight as something that could conceivably happen to us as well.
But even in other, difficult-to-fathom instances we still attempt to play the role of concerned fellow citizen and at least voice public regret over unfavorable circumstances. And so I did with Curt Schilling — for a brief moment anyway.
Then I came to my senses. Mind you, while I’m not gleeful about the former major-league pitcher’s state of financial affairs, my crying towels are staying packed away in the linen closet.
You likely heard about Schilling’s latest undertaking — perhaps you even got in on his estate sale, which was held in Medford, Mass., this past Saturday as a means by which to clean up some clutter. The clutter in Schilling’s world is monetary.
Being an ex-athlete, you’d reasonably assume Schilling had plenty of money. By normal-person standards, he does, but clouding the picture — and, thus creating his personal clutter — is the fact he owes a bunch of it to others.
Specifically, Schilling is being sued by Rhode Island’s economic development agency. According to previously published reports, the state had approved a $75 million loan in 2010 to get Schilling’s video-game company to move there.
Only one problem popped up: His profits didn’t do the same. The venture ultimately failed and Schilling’s company collapsed into bankruptcy in 2011.
Schilling reportedly made about $114 million during his playing career, and he is currently employed by ESPN as an analyst. Offsetting that is the $50 million investment he lost in 38 Studios, plus the money Rhode Island wants reimbursed to it.
These are Monopoly numbers, folks, and ones to which none of us can possibly relate. Journalists, for example, would have to work several more years than Schilling did in the majors to equal his career income — about 4,000 more.
Now, I don’t profess to be a business-world whiz, but this much I know: Anyone I’ve ever met could live quite satisfactorily, thank you, on Schilling’s baseball earnings alone.
So why the need to enter into high-stakes gambling, which is basically what Schilling did when he sank money into 38 Studios? According to an in-depth article written by Jason Schwartz for Boston Magazine, Schilling, among other things, apparently sought to attain Bill Gates-style wealth.
Gates is well known for his philanthropic endeavors, and evidently Schilling had something similar in mind for himself. That part’s certainly commendable, especially since Schilling has an autistic child. Being in a financial position to, say, underwrite a foundation designed to promote scientific research and maybe one day arrive at a cure for that affliction would have benefited a great many families.
But Schilling could have also done quite a bit of good with a personal donation of $5 or $10 million to whatever worthwhile cause he chose. He didn’t need to try to become Bill Gates, a pursuit that has since turned him into Bill(s) I Owe.
According to an Associated Press story about it, Schilling’s recent estate sale featured more than 150 items, including a baby grand piano, vintage Coca-Cola machine and — my personal favorite — a Hummer golf cart. What’s the matter — just any old golf cart wasn’t good enough to get Schilling to the next hole?
Let me reiterate that if this tale involved an anonymous Everyman who had unexpectedly fallen on hard times and did not in any way set himself up for failure, it would truly be a sad one. And even if Schilling’s situation had resulted from an unavoidable medical emergency or something similar in nature, then we’ve got plenty of room for sympathy.
But how do you feel bad for someone who got greedy and evidently was ill prepared to properly run a company? That was Schilling’s choice to make, he made it, and now he’s paying dearly for his ineptitude.
Why couldn’t he have invested a smaller amount into someone else’s company, one being operated by a more experienced businessperson? Or Schilling could have played the stock market, as multitudes of other citizens do.
What I’m guessing happened is that Schilling, like many athletes, became a victim of his own excellence.
Though we have a tendency to criticize professional jocks for the insanely high incomes they realize for playing a “kid’s game,” the fact is they represent a pretty rare breed. If it were that simple to make the peewees-to-pros journey, we’d all do it.
And that’s just to get there. To achieve Schilling-like star status, one needs the perfect combination of ideal timing, natural talent and inner drive.
Not surprisingly, notable accomplishments in any field tend to inflate egos. Healthy egos are OK; what makes them unhealthy is when they convince individuals that their level of expertise extends beyond the obvious.
If Curt Schilling had the ingredients necessary to become an all-star pitcher, why wouldn’t those same traits apply to make him an all-star businessman, too? That’s what his ego probably said to him, and he was foolish enough to listen.
Schilling should have been content with what he did on the diamond — heck, how many guys have been famous enough to rake in over $92,000 for a bloody sock, which Schilling did when he auctioned off the one he wore in the 2004 American League Championship Series? Any bloody sock I owned would be burned long before it was bought.
So, Curt, for the sake of your family, I hope you get your financial mess straightened out someday. Even though you pretty much did it to yourself, I’m willing to ignore that long enough to give you good wishes.
Giving you any sympathy, however, is out of the question.