Political and religious philosophers agree: left unsaddled by a healthy fear of an angry, magical clerk in the sky, people behave like real assholes. The (Republican) party line goes: given a fraction of a chance, your fellow man will in his natural state show himself to be a pilfering, hoarding dick. And no self-regulation, it is repeated, can interfere with this imperative of narrow self-interest. Without fear of imposed authority, no drinking well remains unpooped-in for long; there is nothing beyond grabbing or ruining, nobody and nothing beyond encroachment. We cannot make the right choices. Our hopeless flaws can be tamed only by laws – of morality, of the market, of the land.
Fuck that, says Will Stewart. The Texan from Austin, accountant, baseball fan and indisputably good person is the guy in the left field stands who caught Chicago White Sox DH Jim Thome’s game-winning 500th home run ball at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday. Stewart did something unexpected in a decade history will remember for its appalling culture of greed. Ball in hand, fully aware of the (at least $100K) potential dollar value to Thome, Stewart did not grab. To the chagrin of clergy, cops, and commodity traders the country over, Stewart failed to conduct business as usual by opening with a price negotiation.
Instead, Stewart gave Thome the ball. For no price. While the club has showed their gratitude by handing Stewart a pair of season tickets (which he then donated to Thome’s favorite charity) the fact remains Will Stewart passed up a six-figure payday – in 2007 – out of common decency.
“I feel it is a part of Chicago baseball history,” said Stewart, right after handing the ball back to the White Sox slugger during a postgame press conference.
On the other hand, O.J. Simpson recently enunciated a markedly different take on the ethics of sports memorabilia when he said “Hey, take this fucking pillowcase off and put those fucking balls in it“.
Paging the sky clerk.