If you’re in the front row of the parade and you stop walking, pretty soon you’re back in the tuba section. But if you want to keep leading the parade you’ve got to keep striving, being extraordinary… And that’s another reason we shouldn’t be having a parade for a Little League team that finished 3rd…

I may be wrong here, but the way I understand it you don’t get a gold medal for beating ‘somebody’ — you get a gold medal for beating ‘everybody’.

Surprise… surprise…

Once, way back in high school, I got a gold trophy for being the best in the entire county-wide science fair. Okay, so I was/am a geek. Nevertheless, out of the dozens of high schools and thousands of competitors I was considered ‘duh best of the rest.’ And there was a parade of praising editorials.

Ta-dah!!!!

Other than that, the closest I ever came again to such a parade was in the shovel brigade –following the tuba section down Main Street, cleaning up.

In other words you don’t get medals for trying something. You get honored for results.

I say that despite the fact I was a Little League coach for 11 years. And even though my younger son was severely handicapped I detested that everyone got a trophy. I never could swallow that everyone still gets awarded just for participating. What does that teach the kids? The hard reality is: Not everybody gets the prize.

I mean, believe it or not, I used to play sports. Then I realized you can buy trophies. Now I am good at everything – or so my ‘trophies’ say.

Otherwise we are just rewarding mediocrity. There’s no authenticity. And we must always remember that in all actuality gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.

And when destiny plucks you from that barrel of obscurity she wants you to become extraordinary. She doesn’t want you to come back and shrug that you tried your best. Before she kicks your derriere out of a perfectly good airplane and orders you to fly she bellows that your best is not good enough. You must do all that needs doing – and much, much more. And not only to get the job done, but to succeed!

You don’t get medals or parades for doing your job. You get medals and parades for doing it better than everybody else. You are supposed to put your best shot forward everyday at every opportunity. And most times your best just ain’t good enough. You may get a pat and a nod for actually doing your job. But that’s it. Because you’re supposed to do your job.

And do it well.

Which brings me to the parade we’re supposedly having in Philadelphia for the Taney Dragons, of whom I happily – contrary to my nature – wrote about last week.

Taney is in the southerly section of the grand ol’ tattered lady known as the city of brotherly love. It’s a blue-collar, sports-crazed town that, like many, can’t find the money to keep its schools and libraries or firehouses open. It’s struggling with pension debt and the thumbprints of the old union bosses from when Philadelphia was once a manufacturing giant, like a China to the world.

Yet now we’re gonna find the money to throw a parade with the usual force of overtime cops overeating donuts.

Hmm…

Yes, we love the Taney Dragons. I love them. Even rearranged my work schedule so as not to miss their televised games.

Taney is, indeed, the first team that Philadelphia has ever had in the Little League World Series in Williamsport. It’s also the team that won the hearts of America, mostly for having that wonder-of-wonder, Mo’ne Davis. She became the first girl pitcher to win a post season game in Little League history. And her 70-miles-per-hour speedballs enabled her to be the first Little Leaguer to ever grace the cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’ this week.

Yet the Dragons, as grand and noble as they played, without contracts and remuneration for a city yearning for a winner of any sorts, nevertheless lost in the U.S. semi-finals. Taney ended up the tournament as third best in the United States – after Chicago and Las Vegas. And no better than tied for fourth among all the world teams.

However, then our political leaders got involved. And as we all sadly recognize our political ‘heads’ are always finding a parade and getting in front of it. For high-stepping in the pageant requires no skill or effort on the part of an elected official. Especially Philadelphia’s Mayor Nutter.

Nutter is a guy who for 15 years on City Council pretty much contributed nuttin’ more than to our woes. And then he suddenly jumped in on the anti-smoking parade.

And one night, years back, across from City Hall, in an expansive hotel bar where many cigar smokers once gathered because our smoke drifted far up and away from everybody in the 15-story atrium, we asked then Councilman Nutter about why he was leading the procession on this smoking ban.

And his simple answer was: ‘Well, did you ever hear of me before?’

But of course!

And this was the same Democratic mayoral-candidate who utilized his charming young daughter in campaign ads to win the heartfelt Hallmark Card vote of the ‘enlightened’ citizenry.

No wonder he is in total simpatico with Mo’ne…

Hmm…

Meanwhile, in the military, I understand, they give medals and commendations for people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may survive. However, in business and politics, we apparently give bonuses and elections to people who sacrifice others.

As I said I loved watching the Taney Dragons. They provided us with remembrances of past wonders. When life and its pleasures were simpler and unspoiled. When love, instead of money, was in the air.

And there is nothing grander than baseball – where the lines are white, the grass is green and the field is so perfect it is called a diamond.

But a parade for 13-year-olds with braces who merely played their best – even though their best wasn’t quite good enough to be the best?

It should have sufficed that we all greeted them joyously and raucously getting off the bus from Williamsport. And perhaps contributed to their fund to help pay for all their training, traveling and uniform expenses, like the local sports emporium Modell’s did.

For it’s not the parade or the trophies these kids will forever remember. It’s the life lessons they reaped from enduring, from being kids who had a grand run at the gold, carrying all of our hopes and expectations and succeeding well.

The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself — the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us — that’s where it’s at. And when something rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Because without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

And, as my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy may have uttered once or twice: When you’re on top and you lead the parade, everyone’s there throwing lilies and lilac water on your head. But when those parades have gone with the wind and there’s a storm in your heart, you’ll find the lessons sown in struggling to be extraordinary are the gold in your years.

Hmm… The old man had something there.

And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…

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