Crash Davis was the name of the character in Bull Durham (played by Kevin Costner) who had the unfortunate privilege of being the all time leader in minor league home runs. To accomplish this feat, Crash played in the Minor Leagues for 12 years, while his real dream was to play in the Majors (or “the Show” as he calls it). We learn that Crash did play in the Majors for a short time which he recounts as “the greatest 21 days of my life.” In the movie, Crash Davis is sent down to the single-A team for a specific purpose; to educate hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins).
To me, the story of Crash Davis surfaces the classic Big Pond/ Small Pond debate. It helps to ponder the question of whether we would rather be a Big Fish in a Small Pond or a Small Fish in a Big Pond. Of course, if we all had our druthers, we might like to be a Big Fish in a Big Pond but that is not the point of the exercise. New York City is the classic Big Pond and as Frankie said “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
Just the other day, it occurred to me that someone might have a different outlook for their personal and professional life. For instance, someone might be Big Pond minded professionally, but Small Pond minded in their personal life. Further, could it be the Yin/Yang factor that allows certain people to be happier about their lives? Of course, everyone is different, but here is why it makes sense.
The Big Pond
In my opinion, the irony of the Big Pond is that it is more shallow than the Small Pond. To explain, lets examine the Big Pond from professional and non-professional perspectives.
The Big Pond signifies reaching a high level in your respective industry. If your field is culinary, the Big Pond might be to become the head chef or the owner of a restaurant. If your industry is Law, it might be to become a partner in a major firm rather than a small firm.
The Big Pond signifies reaching a high social standing. It probably means dating someone who has a high social standing whether it be from good looks, wealth, or some other x-factor. It might mean vacationing in places where you are there to be seen, rather than a low-key camping trip. Engaging in social activities that are meant to impress those around you. Lastly, it is about trying to maximize your own “social” worth which, in turn, means that you must care what others think about you.
The Small Pond
Now, lets examine the Small Pond from the professional and non-professional perspectives.
The Small Pond professionals may be interested in becoming a Dr., but not necessarily becoming a famous surgeon who is written up in the New England Journal of Medicine. They are good hard-working people who may like money as much (or more) than anyone, but they don’t feel the need to fight harder (in their view needlessly) to get it.
The Small Pond folks are more focused on relative value (social standing wise). For instance, the Small Pond folks recognize that trying to date a Supermodel or a Celebrity is probably impossible anyway, so why go through the trouble. Why not find someone who will like them for them, rather than a facade of “perfection.”
Half & Half
Everyone is entitled to their own perspective, and each respective Pond is not for everyone. But I do think there is some value in (a) acknowledging which Pond you are swimming in and (b) Not keeping all aspects of your life in one Pond.
Life is not always going to be easy and some perspective is usually a good thing. Especially if you are swimming in the Big Pond where there are more sharks than goldfish. In my opinion, the lesson to learn from Crash Davis is not that one Pond is better than another. Quite the contrary, the lesson to learn is one of acceptance of our potential. Crash was never going to be happy as just a Minor League player. At the end of the film, he decides to become a manager for a Minor League team and given his role as an educator, we are lead to believe that he will be a damn good one. For Crash it is a new beginning and a new chance to take a shot at the Big Pond. In other words, you have to know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em.
Thanks for taking this Crash course in Big Pond / Small Pond theory.
Bright Lights, Big City.