I confess that I've never been a big fan of Schilling, who has always come across to me as a bit self-aware and self-serving in his populism, but I can't help but have a ton of respect for what he's done over the last week, which in turn has made him more likable to me. Sports media spends a lot of its time blathering about "character" and "heart," usually for no more reason than a guy's line drive happened to be hit in the right spot. Pitching through an injury that should have ended your season, while undergoing radical, if minor, medical procedures to do so, is an actual demonstration of heart, one that everyone should appreciate.
I've always had mixed feelings about Schilling. Sometimes I think he's a pompous ass; sometimes I think he's about the most admirable superstar in all of baseball. And sometimes the two opinions co-exist uncomfortably in my mind. Like that open letter he sent out after 9/11 -- one of the more heartfelt things I've ever heard from an athlete. And yet, I'm embarrassed to admit, a small part of me thought it was nothing more than Schilling grandstanding again. And then there was the time Schilling showed up at the memorial service for Darryl Kile in St. Louis. Mind you, Schill didn't really know Kile. They'd been teammates back in '91, but that was it. Yet Schilling flew to St. Louis anyway, because he considers everyone in baseball his brother, and he wanted to pay his respects in person. 99% of me thought you couldn't find a classier move in all of sports. 1% of me thought Schilling just wanted to show the world what a great guy he was.
But in the end it's the better part of Schilling's nature that wins out for me. For one simple reason: because whether he's altruistic or self-absorbed, whether he's authentic or simply posturing, he always comes across to me as a full-blooded human being, clearly a well-rounded poerson with a life outside of baseball. That's rare in sports, and great for the game.
I haven't been won over. I still think Schilling is a putz. But when I watch him work on the mound, I admire what an impressive pitcher he is. Often, I lose myself in a dream..."Man, wouldn't it be great to have a guy like that on the Yankees..."