Celebrity, Mugshots, and Relief

William Weinbaum at ESPN.com has written a fascinating profile of former ace relief pitcher Jeff Reardon. Reardon, if you will remember, made the news a few months ago when he turned himself in after attempting to rob a shopping mall jewelry store. His mugshot showed only a remnant of what was once one of the most dominating relievers in Major League Baseball.

Reardon was recently acquitted of the charges against him by reason of insanity, and in my estimation, this is one of the few cases where such a defense could be called for:

In a barely legible and uncommonly polite robbery demand, Reardon presented a note to a jewelry store clerk that said, “I have a gun. Please place $100 bills & jewelry in this bag and no one will get hurt. Thank you.”

Says [Reardon’s wife], “It’s so infantile, it looks like a kindergartner wrote it. It’s so out of character — not his handwriting. Very strange.”

Reardon, who did not actually have a gun, says he was told later what had happened.

“They said I waited patiently … [a store staff member] handed me a bag with $170. I had more money in my pocket. And I just walked out of the mall and they said I walked right up to a security guard when I got out of the mall. That’s all I’ve been told.

Reardon was on a cocktail of psychotropic drugs at the time of the incident, and Weinbaum explains that Reardon was in a deep depression as a result of the recent death of his 20 year-old son.

It’s a sad story, and it causes me to remember that not even the highest of the supposed successes of this world can insulate us from that fact that we are all fallen beings. Reardon is by no means alone — just take a look at the supermarket tabloids or thesmokinggun.com to see who will be the next to fall. In fact, we needn’t look any further than our own mirrors to see a celebrity on the verge of collapse.

Celebrity, and the hollow visage that accompanies it, is a sham. The biblical Qoheleth discovered this as he rose to the heights of success only to find that “all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11)

I hope Jeff Reardon finds remedy for his pain. The good news is that a hope that is unclouded by celebrity remains. As the apostle Paul observes,

God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:27-29)

When “the things that are” bring us to nothing, we can rest in the knowledge that in Christ, God brought to nothing the things that are.