My name is Kate, and I watch reality TV.
If you’ve already started judging me, I don’t blame you. But first let me point out that when I say ‘reality shows,’ I’m not referring to brawling housewives or Kardashians. My weakness is Celebrity Apprentice, a show where big names including actors, athletes, and musicians take on tasks in hopes of raising money for their charities, all while bowing to the almighty Donald Trump.
It’s entertaining and ridiculous at the same time. It’s like junk food, and I gobble it up.
But when the cast of the most recent season was announced, my interest was piqued on a different level. Right alongside names such as Geraldo Rivera and Terrell Owens was Johnny Damon.
If you’ve read my column before, you probably know that I’m an avid Boston Red Sox fan. Damon was a member of the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox team — the team that ended an 86-year title drought and, in doing so, brought more joy to New England than the end of a long winter (although the way Boston is being hit with snow this year, that might be debatable). Damon played a key role on the team — not just as leadoff hitter, but as a member of ‘the Idiots’, a term that he and a teammate coined to describe the team’s “eclectic roster and devil-may-care attitude.”
Needless to say, he was a fan favorite.
So when he signed with the hated New York Yankees just a year after waving to Sox fans from a duck boat during the World Series parade — just a year after I sported a shirt with Damon’s #18 — I was devastated.
All of Red Sox nation was devastated.
But before Damon donned the famous pinstripes and officially became public enemy number one, he did something important. He said thank you. Damon took out a full-page newspaper ad in the Boston Globe that read, “Many thanks to the great fans of New England and the city of Boston. It was a privilege and an honor.”
Now I’ll be perfectly honest. At the time, I wasn’t exactly receptive to his gesture — and I wasn’t alone. The reaction among most fans went something like this: “He can take his thank you and shove it!” (Okay, that’s pretty tame, but you get the message.)
But a small part of me appreciated it, even then.
Fast forward a decade, and I still remember that Damon didn’t just storm out of town without stopping to thank those who supported him. Even though he was hurt that the Sox didn’t match the Yankees’ offer and that he had to leave the city he’d come to love, he still said thanks. And although we resisted, a (very) small part of each Red Sox fan thought, ‘You’re welcome, Johnny.’
It was in stark contrast to the exit of Roger Clemens, one of the greatest players who ever wore the uniform. Like Damon, Clemens also landed with the Yankees after a memorable stint with the Sox. But unlike Damon, Clemens let a feud with ownership blind him to the fact that he did have support; from people like me who, as a young kid, rattled off his stats and begged their parent to take them to Fenway Park to watch a legend take the mound. He failed to separate his bad feelings about the owners from his relationship with the fans.
And years later, he’s still paying for it.
It reminded me of a situation involving my friend Emily. Her boss was brilliant when it came to ideas and vision, but completely inept at management. He constantly said inappropriate things and had completely unrealistic expectations. He’s the kind of person she certainly would’ve written off after handing in her resignation, but then he did something she’ll never forget. He organized a lunch with the entire staff on her last day, and looked her in the eyes and said, ‘thank you.’
It was something she never expected; something that changed her perception of him. And although she probably wouldn’t work with him directly again, she wouldn’t rule it out completely. And when he sent her a LinkedIn request, she accepted, all because of two little words. Two words so powerful they had me rooting for Damon once again.