O.K. folks, it's trivia time. How many of you have heard of Mackey Sasser? .... Anyone? ..... He was a catcher for the professional baseball team known formally as the Metropolitans from New York (aka the New York Mets). What made this gentleman notable to baseball fans is that he developed some weird and wacky psychological disability where he could not throw the ball back to the pitcher. It was sad and painful watching him try to release the ball. What is really interesting, from a detached and clinical point of view, is that if he saw a base runner breaking from first or second, he had a cannon of an arm and could make quick and accurate throws to his fielders. Something that he once had mastered at the highest of levels, he lost and could not find again.
I had a blog entry from a couple months ago entitled Routine Routine; there I spoke of a similar issue where things that you do again and again, can sometimes go completely awry (like biting your cheek while chewing food). As for me, I have recently lost the ability to do something that I used to be able to do like a professional. Folks who know me may know that I am a pretty good chef with years of training and an advanced degree from the Cordon Bleu in Paris. O.K., that last part is completely fictional, but I am a pretty reasonable cook. For years I have used eggs in recipes and never had the slightest issue with cracking them open. Now, for the life of me, I cannot crack open an egg without getting eggshell everywhere. What is going on? Is this some old age thing?
Before we go down that road, I wanted to come back to our friend Mackey Sasser. When I was in graduate school, I used to hang out at a bar with my friends at the end of a long day and throw some darts. Cricket was my game of choice. I was actually pretty good at one point. However, at some moment, I lost the ability to release the dart. I would start the throwing motion, but my mind would not allow me to release the dart. It was exactly the same condition that inflicted Mackey. It eventually lead me to give up darts.
The failure to release the dart, or crack the egg, or throw the baseball, or whatever the affliction might be, is not a problem with lack of effort or lack of passion or level of intelligence. I recently read that Mackey eventually got over his Sasser-itis after he retired by working with a psychologist. Recovery from problems like this can be instantaneous if one is lucky, for others, help may never come. It can be more than a little scary. For now, omelets are off my repertoire.