I was a born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
So sang Leonard Cohen in The Tower of Song, and effectively that’s what an apparently homeless man named Ted Williams wrote on a cardboard sign, before standing at a busy intersection in Ohio and asking for help. Within 24 hours, via a bacterial [I can’t stand clichés] YouTube video, the guy has all kinds of lucrative job offers, and at the time of writing is said to be accepting one from the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise, along with a house to live in.
And I say: Please let the story end here. Fan-bloody-tastic!
This is how everyone should be able to get a job: Prove, in a few seconds, that you can do the job (without doubt, this man has a wonderful radio voice) and immediately have many moneyed employers competing over hiring you.
Instead, for everyone else, the process of getting a job is a long rigmarole of resumé writing, multiple interviews, background checks, and who knows what else. Before you even get to writing the resumé, you better have gone to the right college and gotten the right degrees and also accumulated the requisite experience. By the end of it all, it appears that no one really cares whether you can actually do the job or are of good character; all that matters is that all the right boxes have been checked off to please the high-powered corporate Human Resources department. Now, if you’re hired, you’re free to bomb out just as dramatically as you please, and often enough that’s just what the “best qualified” candidates do.
For Ted Williams, however, throw out the rule book; just fuggedaboutit: He only had to do his thing for a few seconds in front of someone’s iPhone, and he’s in like Flynn [I do like charming archaic catchphrases]. He’s got the voice, and it’s a darned nice story — he’s got the job!
My fear is that the story does not in fact end here. The guy in the video is instantly likeable, and anyone with a heart wants to see someone apparently down on his luck like this be utterly redeemed. But 24 hours into this story, what does anyone really know about “Ted Williams”? More importantly, what will they know about him next week?
I hope nothing — as already said, I hope the story ends here. But the questions are going to be asked, and some of them might retrieve unwelcome answers. In the famous video, he says he’s been “clean for two years” of alcohol and drug abuse. God bless him, if so. But those are tough monkeys to get off your back. Is he really clean of them, and yet still hanging out on a street corner with a cardboard sign?
I know: shoot me.
But in addition to admitting to the alcohol and drug addiction, he says there were “other things” to which he was enslaved. What “other things” might come out about his past? What kinds of other things would be acceptable to the Cleveland Cavaliers, or some or these other high-profile potential employers? What if he has a criminal record? A violent criminal record? Or even crimes more offensive than, well, the norm?
Right now, everyone is caught up with what seems like the feel-good story of the century. Please God, it will stay that way. But I fear it turning into a great crashing case of disillusionment. Everyone deserves a shot at redemption, we like to think. But when the detritus really hits the proverbial air-blowing mechanism, how far are we truly prepared to go to risk offering that redemption? Perhaps, in the coming days, we’ll find out.
Or better: the story ends here.