The ignominious exit of Dan Rather a couple of months ago got me thinking. By all accounts Rather was an intrepid newsman and certainly one of the best in the history of television news. But here he is now, the object of derision. Granted, Rather had it coming. When you attempt to depose a president with damning evidence, you better make damn sure that evidence is airtight, iron-clad, and waterproof. As we now know, it was none of the above. If anything, that evidence was embarrassingly flimsy, and made Rather look like a buffoon. And so, in one fell swoop, Dan Rather's reputation, built over forty plus years, was destroyed. And it wasn't unwarranted. But again, what happens in the previous eight innings is secondary to what happens in the ninth. And in the ninth inning of his professional career, Rather screwed the pooch. Oh well.
Throughout life one goes through times of triumph and times of defeat. The famous among us have that win/loss record magnified in a very public way. Frank Sinatra, having enjoyed tremendous success during WWII, spent the post war-years on his gluteus maximus. He didn't start making it again until the mid-50's, and had to beg for his role as Maggio in "From Here To Eternity". (Contrary to legend, this drama was not accurately portrayed in "The Godfather", and Frank's real story, unlike Johnny Fontaine's, did not involve a decapitated horse.) Had Frank "checked out" at that point (he allegedly attempted suicide when Ava Gardiner ran off with another man on him), he would've been another sad footnote in history. But Frank went on to much bigger fame and fortune in the next few decades, and finished his life and career on a high note. Joe Torre is another example. With a managerial record of less than .500 prior to joining the Yankees, Torre is now considered one of the finest managers the Yankees have ever had. It is not an outrageous comparison to compare Torre to Joe McCarthy, Miller Huggins, or even Casey Stengal. But what if Torre never got hired by the Yankees for the '96 season? He would've gone down as one of the more unsuccessful managers in major league history. Again, it's all how you wind up at the end.
Probably the all-time comeback story has got to be Winston Churchill. In the 1930's, Churchill was so far out of favor that even though he was one of the most prominent politicians of his day and his party had the majority in the House of Commons, Churchill couldn't even score a low-level cabinet post. Prior to his exile, he caused a deep recession within the British economy as Chancellor of the Exchequer by insisting that the pound sterling be backed by the gold standard, violently suppressed coal miner's strike in Wales as Home Secretary, and was blamed for the disasterous Dardanelles offensive at Gallipoli during the First World War. Throughout the 30's, Churchill repeatedly warned of German re-armament and the war-like posture of Nazi Germany. It was not until he was proven correct that he was brought back into power, first as First Sea Lord, and then when Chamberlain resigned, as Prime Minister. By the time he assumed the Prime Ministership, he was already well into his 70's.
And so it goes. No matter how much good you might've done in your lifetime, no matter how much money or fame was attained, if it all comes crashing down, that's how you'll be remembered. However, if one still has the opportunity to pick up the pieces and make a successful recovery, that's how one is remembered. Dan Rather has run out of opportunities to redeem himself. Joe Torre got an opportunity to redeem himself, and made himself greater than anyone could've imagined. In the end, it's all what you do in the ninth inning.