Whitney Houston was probably my favorite singer as a kid.
Gary Carter was one of my favorite ballplayers as a kid.
Whitney Houston’s albums played over and over and over in my house.
Gary Carter’s statistics—especially with the 1986 Mets—remained glued inside my brain.
Here’s the weird thing: Even though Houston died last weekend, and Carter passed just yesterday, I am more disturbed by the loss of the singer than the ballplayer. I’ve thought about this, and I think it relates directly to lost potential. Carter was a brilliant athlete, and he milked everything out of that ability. He played hard, he played enthusiastically, he won a World Series title. When Carter retired, it was—without any remote question—time to retire. The tank was empty, and had been for a few years.
Houston, on the other hand, didn’t empty the tank via her abilities. No, she drank the gas. She apparently smoked packs upon packs of cigarettes, and her drug usage is now well-documented. And that’s why I’m sad. Because while watching Carter in his final season with Montreal could have probably been a tad depressing to some, it wasn’t—at all—to me. It was a celebration of a career; of a man; of a life. When he waved to the Olympic Stadium crowd that final time, well, a hero’s farewell could not have been better scripted.
With Houston, there was no hero’s farewell. In her final years, she looked tired and worn down; her voice a pathetic shell of what it once was. Though Elvis Presley was a few years younger when he died (42; Houston was 48), their final showings were strikinglu similar. People mocked the once-great King as he wobbled around the stage in an XXL white jumpsuit. People also mocked the once-great diva as she screeched out lyrics and desperately covered up the notes she could no longer hit. It was sad and sort of pathetic, and to watch those videos now is downright painful.
Gary Carter was, I would argue, the better person. Less selfish, less arrogant and probably—comparatively—less talented. But at least he got everything done.
He emptied the tank.