In 1957 Mickey Mantle made $65,000 a year. Using the fanciest automobile as a benchmark which was a $5,000 Cadillac (1/10 of his salary) we can compare America in its hay day to the one we have today. Few stars were “brighter” in the baseball pantheon than Mantle. Things have changed. We have just witnessed a lot of “hoop-la” over which basketball franchise would bag LeBron James. James was paid a salary of fifteen million last year which paled compared to his twenty-eight million in “endorsements.” Did anyone notice the “idiot” light go off on America’s dashboard? The great economic engine of the United States is, not only over-Heated [pun intended], but it has blown a gasket with that basket.
America used to make stuff, lots of stuff. Made in the USA labels were on the “stuff” the world wanted and the “stuff” was made by the guys who went to the Yankee games or read the back page of the Daily News before they read the first. Americans made the cars, the radios and the toasters that the world dreamed about. America made the steel, the airplanes, and the tractors, and a single factory worker (if he worked hard and made some “overtime”) could buy a house, a car, and send his children to college.
What “stuff” does America make these days? The answer is “not much.” America makes “Stars,” movie stars and sports stars and then she falls down and worships them. America fills stadiums to see them or hear them and go Ga-Ga over them.
America has always been a nation of dreamers, but the dreams are more restive these days. The dream no longer involves a success in being a good father or parent or buying a house in Levittown. The dreams today are hoop dreams and dreams of Hollywood, or gaining an endorsement from Nike or being chased by the paparazzi. The dream is about winning American Idol, or winning the Sweepstakes, or winning a class action lawsuit against a big oil company. It’s about becoming a sensation on YouTube, of being a “star.”
America with all its faults was made up of God-fearing people. At the end of the day, the average person sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium or Ebbot’s Field knew that the Pilgrims had an important place in making America what she was (e.g. Thanksgiving). Satan once told Eve that God was trying to keep her from her deserved greatness and that she could be a “star.” Well, actually it says “god,” but that is basically the same thing. The thought of her name “up in lights” was just too much for her. She bought the hype of hoop dreams. She gave up the garden and all its goodness, and the whole world went Gaga. – Ingimar DeRidder