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Jim Walker: There is nobility in swinging for the fence

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: December 9, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 9, 2011 1:55 a.m.

You’ve heard it countless times: “He was swinging for the fence.” This, as you know, means he was trying to hit a home run. And, unfortunately, most times, this is followed by “a swing and a miss.” You see, in baseball, the odds favor base hits over home runs. And so, swinging for the fence is often a desperate act, in which you will, instead of “hitting it out of the park,” most often “go down swinging.”

These well-worn baseball phrases apply to life, in general, as well. For example, if your aim is financial independence, your best odds arise from such things as working hard at a good job, making smart investments and cheating on your income taxes. These “base hits” should eventually add up to a lot of gold bars under your mattress.

On the other hand, buying $10,000 worth of lottery tickets would fall into the category of desperately swinging for the fence.

Oh, and working for a newspaper? Well, that’s a sacrifice bunt.

But, regardless of how reckless it might be, in my view, swinging for the fence is always a bold and noble act of courage and intemperance. It’s something to be admired, along the lines of charging a machine-gun nest bare-handed, or being totally honest with your wife about her hairdo.

Great works of literature and cinema are full of this kind of nobility. For example, the world will long remember the heroic line Otter offered in 1978’s “Animal House.” With the Delta Tau Chi fraternity being shut down, their backs against the wall and all hope seeming lost, he nobly declared, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.” 

Inspired by those great words, Bluto courageously responded, “And we’re just the guys to do it.”

And then the Delta Tau Chi boys all charged off to destroy a parade as a grand and senseless act of revenge.

It was totally swinging for the fence, and such heroic acts mold the lifestyles of impressionable young men who watch them, I can tell ya.

Oh, you want an example not from fiction? Well, how about the lads in the 1854 Battle of Balaclava, in the Charge of the Light Brigade? About half of those 660 or so fine gentlemen ended up dead, wounded or captured, and the whole thing was pretty much a bust. But we remember them fondly, don’t we?

Yup, more than 150 years of admired courage and nobility, arising out of colossal errors in judgment back in the day.


Because they charged into the guns.

Now, sometimes, you might not realize when you are swinging for the fence — but you are. For example, when your midlife crisis causes you to buy that red Porsche you can’t afford, you’re swinging for the fence. Whatever you’re envisioning isn’t really likely to happen.

When you sign that gym contract on Jan. 2, you’re swinging for the fence. I mean, seriously?

And when you sign your “creative” income tax return, you’re swinging for the fence, hoping the IRS has bigger fish to fry.

In fact, just the simple act of getting out of bed in the morning is pretty much swinging for the fence. If you were to dwell on all the chin music and knucklers and bean balls life could hurl at you, you’d just quiver under the covers.

And, finally, how about anyone who chooses to get married or makes the conscious decision to have children? These, my friends, are the ultimate examples of swinging for the fence. Overall, the odds are not in your favor.

And yet so many, many of us charge into the guns on these, grinning as we go and pretending the bullets don’t hurt.






I’d say so.

Besides, sometimes you do hit it out of the park.

I mean, the human race would not survive if we all played the odds, lived alone and raised hamsters, right?

Swing away, my friends. Swing for the fence. There is no nobility in a timid life.

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