Mondays with Mike: When the going gets tough, Curt Schilling should shut up

As spring training for Major League Baseball approaches, the baseball news is a little sparse—so one not-so baseballish item got a lot of attention this past week. Curt Schilling, a former pitcher and current broadcaster, announced he has cancer.

Bear with me non-baseball fans, because this isn’t about baseball—but you should probably know a couple things about Schilling. He was a terrific pitcher. He’s always loved the limelight, and he clearly loves the sound of his own voice, or the sight of his words in print. He’s a real PITA, IMHO.

That he announced his illness is neither here nor there—unless you know his propensity for attention—and then you know he’s going to milk it. Fair enough. Cancer sucks, so if it helps him in some way, fine. (Though some cancer sucks a lot worse than others, and he didn’t mention what kind he has.) But the announcement wasn’t enough for the verbally incontinent Schilling. He just had to throw this in:

“My father left me with a saying that I’ve carried my entire life and tried to pass on to our kids: ‘Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.’…

OK, I get the desire for rah-rah pep talks that some people need. And when you blab as much as Schilling does, it’s inevitable that much of what you say is stupid. But really, you have to say something like that?

Because it implies very directly that folks that don’t last through cancer—people like our friend Sheelagh or my sister Kris, for example—weren’t tough. (I can tell you, in any contest other than pitching, either would kick Schilling’s ass).

I’m singling out Schilling—but he’s hardly alone in oafishness. We have some sort of perverse need for these aphorisms. I don’t know if it’s out of fear or awkwardness or whatever, but people manage to say the worst, least helpful things in the face of difficulties. I know this first hand. When Beth lost her sight, and a year later when Gus was diagnosed with his genetic disorder, I heard ‘em all. I’ve blocked most of them out. But the classic “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle” was among them. My favorite, though, came from, of all people, a social worker. I think she meant it as a compliment. I don’t know.

Anyway, she took me aside after we’d had dinner with her and her husband, and said, “You know, other men would’ve left.”

Ay yay yay yay yay. I’m not sure whether she thought I was a saint or an idiot. And I don’t even want to start about what it said about what she thought about Beth. Or about my fellow males.

I know that she was not a malicious person. And I’m pretty sure Curt Schilling for all his hot air, isn’t either. I also know there is always a tendency to want to say something that helps. And it’s awkward for everyone. But in those times, it’s probably best to stop, take a breath, and say…nothing. Sometimes that’s the best you can do.

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14 Responses to “Mondays with Mike: When the going gets tough, Curt Schilling should shut up”


  1. 1 Veronica Dougherty February 10, 2014 at 7:34 am

    thank you! that needed to be said
    as someone who is living with cancer I know exactly what you mean by these supposed pep talks – good thing they leave me speechless temporarily or else I might respond with what I want to say

  2. 2 Barbara Gaither February 10, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I for one particularly dislike “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle”! If you believe in God, which I do, then you might want to look to his word ( the Bible) and you will find that no where in there does it say such a thing! We have heard some real doozies too over the years. Silence is priceless!

  3. 4 laura February 10, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Completely agree with you on this one! With Steve’s transplants, I’ve heard that a lot! Along with “God must have had plans for you” — like he didn’t for the donor? Huh? *head shake*

  4. 8 Pick February 10, 2014 at 9:26 am

    One of my favorite expressions just might apply here…”Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and erase all doubt!” I believe Mark Twain said that.

  5. 9 Lauren February 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Ah, the hot air balloons we’d love to pop. But to be fair and un-snarky, when people say these dumb things, they honestly mean to help. They don’t know what to say (because there are no words); and they think they’re supposed to say something helpful (even though nothing can help); and they think these pithy cliches might just do the trick. They’re misguided, but not malicious.

    • 10 mknezo2014 February 10, 2014 at 10:45 am

      I had a snark build-up that needed to be relieved:) Totally agree, just want to remind (myself included) not to try too hard in those times. The things I remember are folks showing up a just the right time to help, to visit in a hospital, provide a ride. But I don’t remember anything anyone said.

      Some of it is whether you’ve experienced a little yourself. We were in a position in our twenties where our healthy contemporaries really didn’t know what to make of all the travails. So on one hand, I understand, but on the other hand, I kinda feel compelled to let folks know how it looks on the other end.

  6. 11 Monna Ray February 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

    You’ve got it right, Mike. Monna

  7. 12 mary kaye February 10, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Mike and Beth — sooo right. When my daughters were having miscarriages right and left and I didn’t know how to respond, the wisest advice I was given was — just say you are sorry and follow that with quiet.

  8. 13 Deadham Hear February 11, 2014 at 5:34 am

    Hmmmm. I guess Schilling’s dad wasn’t tough, since he died young. That’s why such sayings are stupid.

    Cancer sucks, but hey, Schilling is still rich enough to get the best treatment money can buy. That can’t be said for millions of others with life-threatening illnesses. And yes, sorry to say, but Schilling will milk it for all it’s worth. He just can’t help letting everyone know what an amazing dude he (thinks he) is at any possible opportunity.

    I don’t wish cancer on anyone, but if someone has to get it, then an egomaniac with loads of money to pay for treatment would have to be the best case scenario.

    • 14 mknezo2014 February 11, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Clearly, you’ve watched (and heard) him:) As annoying as he is, I wouldn’t wish it on him or anyone, regardless of their resources. But yeah, the resources sure help in times like that.


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