The manager on how the song “Darkness of the Edge Town” taught him on how to play the game of life.
I first heard Bruce Springsteen‘s “Darkness on the Edge of Town” in the summer of 1978, when I was 15. I grew up in Monmouth Beach, N.J., with my brother and four sisters, so one of them always had the album and song playing. Today, “Darkness” reminds me of where I came from and helps me think through big decisions.
Until I was in my mid-20s, I was a pleaser. Whether it was to win my dad’s acceptance or the attention of high school and college coaches, I was preoccupied with approval. But in my 20s, I realized that being a pleaser would only keep me from taking necessary risks and going my own way.
Springsteen’s lyrics in the second verse of “Darkness” helped: “Everybody’s got a secret, sonny / Something that they just can’t face…Till someday they just cut it loose / Cut it loose or let it drag ‘em down.” As a pitcher in school and the majors, I identified with the third verse, too: “Tonight I’ll be on that hill ’cause I can’t stop / I’ll be on that hill with everything I got.”
Those who get to play pro sports confront more personal challenges sooner than most people. Pro athletes have accelerated careers and hit a midlife crisis in their 30s. So the song’s third verse hits home. But it’s more than just words. The E Street Band’s music reflects the athlete’s struggle against time. There’s a loping pace to the song that bottoms out and picks up with wall-shattering energy.
Having grown up in a blue-collar family, I wasn’t born into a good life. But I’m thankful I’ve had to work hard, which makes what I do more rewarding. I’ve also been fortunate in my career to be presented with great professional opportunities. Those moments have forced me to figure out whether to stay with the status quo or change. Without a doubt, “Darkness” has come to mind in those situations
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Back in the early 2000s, I met Springsteen briefly in Cleveland, when I worked in the Indians’ front office. I had backstage access to his concert at what was then Jacobs Field, so it was just a quick shake of the hand. “Darkness” is more than a song for me, so even a fast handclasp was pretty electrifying.
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