The Letter R

John Travolta wears his letter sweater at Rydel High in Grease

Sealed Letter Sweater from Jonathan Dayton Regional High School 
During a recent visit to see my mother, I found sitting on my desk my high school letter sweater. In 1969, I play varsity baseball for the regional bulldogs from Jonathan Dayton Regional High School. My sister had borrowed the sweater many years ago and I had forgotten about it.  I was quite proud to earn this distinction while only a sophomore, as few players made the varsity team from my grade. Whether I actually wore the sweater, I am uncertain but I can’t find a single photograph in any of my albums. (If a photo doesn’t exist, in my world it may not be real event).

That evening, we were watching TV and Grease was on. I hadn’t seen the movie in years and it is a true classic. Toward the end, the John Travolta character (Danny Zuko) decides he needs to change his look to try and attract Olivia Newton-John (Sandy Olson). And guess what he was wearing? 

The late sixties were a time of lots of turmoil. My high school class refused to have a prom because we were against anything conventional.  We fought for important things like the right to way jeans which at the time we called dungarees. But I learned some valuable marketing lessons during this time although I didn’t really know it then.

The third person on the left in the back row is me when I got my letter (R) in baseball in high school

My field of dreams. The high school baseball field. The sign is new.

What I learned in high school about marketing. 
Each student was like a brand. We were always trying to be different than everyone else while at the same time, striving to be part of a community. We wanted to be unique and special so we all dressed in the same clothes. As it turns out, being part of a community was how we were different. Our identities were connected by shared interests, needs and desires. Among my friends, we conformed by being non-conforming. It was in this ambiguity that we happily existed as we listened to Frank Zappa on the reel to reel 8 track. 

I learned how important it is to be both different and to fit in somewhere. I wanted to be cool so people would like me. Yet, I also wanted to be my own person with my special talents and skills. The real lesson about marketing during high school was to strive toward being the authentic remarkable person that we all want to be. Whether through music, science, art or baseball, finding your special skills was the real teachable moment of high school. 

In tenth grade, baseball and being a letter man made me different from my own tribe. Although my baseball career was short-lived, it was one of those remarkable experiences during my childhood that made me different from my buddies. As one of my old friends told me recently, he too was briefly into sports in high school until he got more interested in weed.

I don’t remember the high school giving out any letters for that activity.

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