TOO MANY WALLYS

Back to writing a weekly Blog after two weeks off celebrating Christmas and New Year’s. Feels good to put thoughts back on paper rather than having them just floating around in my head (maybe that’s why I can’t sleep at night).

Well, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was hoping we’d all wake up on January 1 and find out that 2020 was a dream and never really happened. Guess that didn’t work out for us. Let’s hope we get this pandemic thing behind us quickly and can move forward with some sort of normality. In any event, I hope your holidays went well, safe and healthy, now let’s get back to racing!

I recall speaking a while back about the fact of too many Wally trophies being handed out. While there are still quite a few looking for that first one after a race win, the Wally has been handed out for numerous other things well short of a win. While it’s admirable to receive one, I feel as if it has somewhat cheapened the brand, almost as if given out as a participation trophy.

I read a story not too long ago entitled 17-INCHES. At an annual baseball convention, a noted college coach was the keynote speaker. He walked out on stage wearing home plate around his neck. Short of thinking he was crazy, he first asked, “How wide is home plate at the Little League level?”

Someone finally fessed up, “Seventeen inches.”

“That’s right. How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

Again, someone yelled out, “Seventeen inches.”

“And how wide is home plate in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

The coach went on to ask, “And what do we do with a big league pitcher who can’t throw the ball over 17- inches? What they don’t do is: they don’t say, “Ah, that’s okay Jimmy. If you can’t hit a 17-inch target, we’ll make it 18 or 19-inches. If you can’t hit that, let us know and we’ll make it even wider still.

“No, we don’t do that. What do we do when our star player shows up late for practice? Or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?”

The point he eventually made is accountability. At age five or six (I don’t remember back that far) my daughter joined a church basketball league. They mentioned to us they weren’t going to keep score so as not to make the kids feel bad. How do we know who wins? What are we teaching our kids? What are we teaching society when everyone gets a trophy?

Much of the same holds true in every aspect of our lives today as sometimes there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. I feel extremely fortunate to have the collection of Wallys I do have. But I know I worked hard for each and every one of them. There are no participation trophies sitting on my shelves, not that I wouldn’t be honored to receive one, but I believe the Wally should be an indication of something earned.

I’m all for handing out… for lack of a better term… a participation trophy. That should be an honor bestowed upon someone for going above and beyond a certain task. But the Wally should be reserved for a win. I began to count how many Wallys were handed out for a national event win beginning in 1969 when that trophy first appeared. Either my eyes were playing tricks on me or I lost count around the 1,000 mark and I was only into the first decade or so. But each one of those were earned through hard work and determination. That doesn’t even count the thousands of smaller Wallys handed out for wins at a Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisionals, each won again with equally hard work; all of which is what should be honored.

It's my belief that when the Wally is handed out for something other than a race win, what we’re doing is “widening home plate.” Let’s not “widen home plate!” -JOHN DiBARTOLOMEO