I speak not of a financial investment (like saving up for retirement), but rather where I direct my time and talents.
I view these investments in two tiers: those critical investments which define my life (family, church, vocation) and those investments which act as a release from the first.
It's those second tier investments I want to examine here. Even though they're not critical, they can be important because they act as a release from those key investments; you can't continue to press yourself forward without taking a breather. Finding healthy release imposes balance upon your life. It's why I'm interested in running marathons right now: it keeps me healthy and gives me a goal outside of my other life endeavors. It's a win-win.
I also invest in watching sports. This is nice too because it requires little exertion on my part yet provides compelling drama. It's a great release.
For example: while online this past weekend I saw that Johan Santana of the Mets was throwing a no-hitter through seven innings. I'm nowhere near being a Mets fan (although they were playing the St. Louis Cardinals whom I wish ill upon), but the drama of a no-hitter is so captivating it insists on being watched. I flipped television stations and was able to see Santana's quest for a clean sheet. Again, even though I don't heart the Mets, I was pulling for the guy to accomplish this admirable feat.
Well, Santana was successful and, after the last strikeout to seal the no-hitter, he was mobbed by his teammates. While watching the euphoria on the field, as the Mets piled-on the victorious pitcher, I saw something incredibly bizarre: a Gary Carter jersey. For those unfamiliar with baseball history, Gary Carter was a catcher for the Mets who retired years ago and died a few months ago, making it doubly impossible that he was on the field celebrating with the team. It was soon recognizable that this person was just a fan sporting a Gary Carter jersey. He was so excited for the no-hitter that he ran on the field to celebrate with the team. The guy even had a few seconds of joy before security took him down.
I forgot about this guy until I saw a news story online earlier today. Apparently the lifelong Mets fan (a pilot, mind you) decided that he just needed to celebrate with the team on the field. His payoff: two nights in jail. Not only did the stunt cause him to miss his child's first birthday, he's now banned for life from attending games in the stadium.
I'm still left with numerous questions about this dude's decision, most of which I have no desire to explore. But an overwhelming thought still remains with me:
When is the investment no longer worth it?
I would suggest that an investment can only be measured in relation to priorities. So my investment in watching sports is fine so long as it acts as a release and doesn't detract from my life's priorities.
This guy who ran out on the field has a solid job, and a wife and a kid. There's some semblance of life priority going on there: he works to provide for his family. That's his top tier investment. And he has something like Mets baseball to act as a release, and that's fine. But once he ran on the field, his second tier investment became more important than his top tier and everything went askew.
You might view this as a misread on my part. So he missed his kid's first birthday party. No big deal, right? I mean, if you've ever attended one of these things, you know that there's not much to one of those shindigs: kid drools, paws at some presents, and sloppily eats cake. Take away the photographic evidence and there's no way my daughter will recollect what happened at her first birthday.
But in this guy's case, it's not missing those few hours at a party that are significant—it's the story of that event that will continue to resonate. For years to come, his family and friends will recall the missed birthday party because he felt obligated to break the law to celebrate with some guys whom he never met. Sure, it might only have been a couple of days out of his thousands here on earth, but the narrative arch will speak volumes about his life. Unfortunately, this kid will be the recipient of a subtle message: in that moment, Daddy loved the Mets more than he loved you.
And what that exposes is that those investment priorities weren't nearly as solid as they seemed.
As I apply this tale introspectively, I'm led to wonder how I'm doing with my investments. I'm reminded that I need to make sure that I'm keeping focus.
Otherwise, I'm just another idiot running onto a playing field that's not my own.