Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM & FM, Friday, July 22, 2011.
The 1978 season was going badly for the New York Yankees. Coming off a World Series win the season before, nothing was working by July. Individual members of the team were at each other’s throats. Owner George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin were feuding in public. On July 19, the Yankees were in fourth place, 14 games behind the Boston Red Sox. They were, for all intents, finished for the season.
In what came to be called The Greatest Comeback Ever, the Yankees pulled it together in the second half. Billy Martin was replaced by Bob Lemon. Lemon was able to get the players to stop acting as individuals and come together as a team. Good things began to happen.
From July 20 through the last day of the season, the Yankees went 51 and 21, a winning percentage of .708, to erase the Boston lead. In a single-game tie-breaking playoff in Boston, trailing 2 – 0 in the seventh, Bucky Dent hit a three-run shot over the Green Monster at Fenway Park to give the Yankees the American League East. The bombers would go on to win the World Series in six against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The oldest Baby Boomer was 32 years old that summer. The youngest was 14.
I lift up The Greatest Comeback Ever in the hope that it might inspire us Baby Boomers. Because we need a comeback of our own. We are on the cusp of becoming the first generation in American history to consume more wealth than we created. Put less than delicately, we have pissed away our inheritance.
And such an inheritance it was. The bridges, the highways, the telephone system, the electric grid, the energy industry, the auto industry, the banks, the airlines, a man on the moon, the streets, the great public buildings, our schools, our churches, our symphony halls and quite literally almost all the things we take for granted – built through the hard work and thrift of our parents – were left to us in the greatest generational bequest in all of history. Our folks left us a proud, successful, solvent, functioning country.
We, for our part, are about to leave our kids the crumbling remnants of what our parents built, together with an overdrawn checking account and a stack of unpaid bills.
Which is why I bring up the 1978 New York Yankees. The 1978 Yanks prove that late season rallies happen. We need one.
The debate over raising the debt ceiling is our opportunity for a late-season save. It is time for us Baby Boomers to stand up and admit that we have been spendthrifts. While we still matter, it is time for us to take the lead in demanding actual, tangible reductions in federal spending and dramatic, meaningful modifications to entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.
It is time to admit that we converted massive equity into massive debt and to accordingly, swear off debt.
This is our last shot to save the Baby Boomer season. Come together as a generation, as the 1978 Yankees came together as a team, and insist on a new national ethic of fiscal responsibility and restraint, and we Boomers will be remembered for our late season comeback.
Fail to do these things, and we will go down as a generation of self-indulgent, self-absorbed wastrels, worthy of posterity’s contempt.