29 September 2011

On Mediocrity

If you've read my previous post, you'll know that I'm a big baseball fan.  Baseball, particularly the Toronto Blue Jays, my hometown team, has prompted this post. 

The Blue Jays finished the season having won as many games as they lost.  81 wins, 81 losses, which begs the question, "Was this just a mediocre season for the Jays?"

Well, if you look at the numbers, you would probably have to say yes.  Their record is exactly even.  In major league baseball this year, 14 out of 30 teams finished with an even record or better, placing the Jays almost exactly in the middle of the pack.  The team gave up 19 more runs than they scored (which meant that their actual outcome in games was slightly better than could be expected). 

So, were the Blue Jays mediocre this year?  For me, mediocre is not just "average."  For me, mediocre is what happens when a person, or team is happy with being just "average."  In my mind, this Blue Jays team is not mediocre.  They strove for excellence.  They weren't happy losing a close game to a good team.  They want more.  This team wasn't mediocre.  They were inconsistent.

Anyone who follows baseball will tell you that it is a game of failure.  The best hitters in the game fail 7 out of every 10 times they come to bat.  A pitcher fails every time a hitter jacks a hanging breaking ball out of the park.  A fielder fails every time he gets handcuffed by short-hopped ground ball.  But they try.  Again and again.  We get better by trying and failing.*

In the world, there is too much mediocrity.  I hear it every day when I hear the songs coming out of the radio.  This music isn't bad because the artists involved aren't talented or creative.  In fact, some of it isn't bad at all.**  But these musicians are being asked to operate inside a small box because the people who control the money behind the music industry are afraid to fail.  They have too much money invested to take risks.

This is why the really great music exists in the undercurrents of a music scene.  Without millions of dollars involved, musicians take risks.  Some of what they do is dreck***, but some of it is truly great and adventurous and amazing.  But these musicians fund their own CDs with the money they make teaching music lessons, or working a day job, or these days, through independent fundraising websites like Kickstarter.  They are free of the boxes that the music industry places around artists.

Mediocrity sucks.  Step out of the box.


* Trying and failing with a bit of rational situational analysis to figure out why you've failed.  Duh.

** This stuff usually goes into my "guilty pleasures" playlist.

*** My attempt to add some Yiddishness in this "Adventures in Klezmer" blog.  Dreck is Yiddish for shit.

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