FAME: TO BE THE GREATEST EVER – Garry Armstrong

RDP Thursday – FAME

“Someday, I’m gonna walk down the street. People will look at me and say, “There he goes, the greatest there ever was!'”

It’s a familiar line. We’ve heard it from would be wonder boys across generations. It’s a line we hear now, used in admiration and derision, to describe the New England Patriots’ 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his former backup Jimmy Garoppolo

Sports radio and television yakkers beat the controversy drums every day. Is Brady better than Joe Montana? Peyton Manning? Steve Young? Is he the greatest there ever was? Audiences foam at the mouth during the debate. It’s the stuff media executives dream about. Drives up ratings which in turn drives up prices for those who buy radio and TV time.

The greatest there ever was.

Robert Redford echoed the line as a young Roy Hobbs in the classic baseball film, “The Natural.” Hobbs was the young everyman who dreamed of greatness. Many of us pursued the same dream.

I grew up in a generation when there were still many doors to be opened. Many challenges to be faced and answered. The social divide was still very evident in the United States. Overt racism was on display for all to see, even in so-called cradles-of-liberty cities.

Women were seen, but not heard. Ogled and groped, but not respected. It’s the way we were — back in the day.  It’s also why so many of us were inspired to succeed.  We wanted to show our worth, our value. We wanted more than respect.

We seem to have regressed back to those days but I hope not permanently.

It was a clear road we walked — to be the greatest there ever was.

Garry – College days at WVHC (1963)

I remember a hot, muggy, September 1959 afternoon at the Parris Island U.S. Marine Corps training base. The base commander stopped to chat up a group of new Marines, just returned from a double-time forced march near the swamp infested grounds that lay outside the base.

The young Gyrenes were clearly tuckered out,  cursing the sandflies who nestled in their bodies. The commander zeroed in one group, singling out a young recruit of color who had attitude written on his face. “Private, how do you like the Marines, now?”

The young man broadened his smile. “Sir, permission to speak freely, sir?

The commander nodded. Red-faced drill instructors familiar with the young man stiffened in their nearby posts braced for the worst. The recruit eyed the DI’s, smiled at them and responded to the commander. “Sir, Private Armstrong is PROUD to be a marine, sir.”

The commander smiled.

The D.I.’s seemed relieved as the recruit continued talking to the commander who could make stripes disappear quickly off a sergeant’s shoulder.

“Sir, I love the Marines. I want to be the greatest there ever was, sir”.

The commander’s stoicism was replaced with a big smile. The D.I’s chuckled softly while glaring at Private Armstrong.

Garry at Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame induction

I did want to be the greatest Marine ever. This wasn’t any John Wayne fanboy stuff. My brief stint had fueled aspirations for a career in the Marine Corps, perhaps in the communications division.  My hearing difficulties would soon end my life as a Marine, but it was a time I still remember with pride. It also helped me plot the course for the rest of my professional life.

In the decades that followed, I never lost the fire in the belly from my Marine Corps days. Some thought the “glamour” of TV news kept me happy and satisfied over the years.

I remember catching up with old friends over the years. They would tell me how successful they were. I heard about how much money they were making. The fancy cars they were driving. Vacation homes, country clubs, and so on.

I couldn’t, wouldn’t play that game. I inevitably wound up repeating how much I enjoyed my work. I talked about excitement, interesting people, dramatic stories — and the chance to make a difference.

There usually was a pause from the friend. I would then tell them I still wasn’t satisfied. Yes, I had awards, celebrity but there was something else.

I still wanted to be the best there ever was. Best replaced greatest somewhere over the years. No matter. The concept had not changed, just the wording.

I’ve been retired for more than 18 years after banking 40 plus years on the job. I think I’m satisfied with my body of work. Satisfied doesn’t do it.

Part of me still wants to be the greatest there ever was.

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

29 thoughts on “FAME: TO BE THE GREATEST EVER – Garry Armstrong”

  1. “GOAT” is an ongoing conversation today in many lives and professions. It keeps the fire in the belly burning.

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  2. I read this post because, two nights ago, on Tuesday, we went to see the Musical FAME in Zurich, Switzerland. It was the original version, in English and it was breathtakingly powerful, beautiful, of an unbroken actuality and presented with glorious actors/singers/dancers. The title of the musical is SO suitable too…. I know, not as powerful as your fame but good enough for me.
    The best bit was that I WON two tickets and that they were for the 1st category. So even though I have bad eyesight I could see everything AND every word of what was being said or sung was crystal clear….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kiki, what an exhilliarating share! Thank you! Congratulations on those two tickets and experiencing the joy of that show. I saw the original film version years ago and it resonated strongly. The search for fame can be a cautionary experience. You may have it and not appreciate what you’ve achieved.
      I’m blessed to meet people now who remember me from my TV days — that goes back almost 50 years, counting my time on Boston TV (31 years) and 18 plus years in retirement. When people compliment me, that’s something you can’t measure in money. They don’t have to have agreed with my work — they just appreciate the effort and honesty. That’s the reward! That’s what you seek.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I too saw the film, a long time ago – musicals always impress me, the sheer combo of incredible talent (dance, singing, acting, presence and physical fitness) but seeing something like that LIVE is another kettle of fish! Incidentally, I met a youth friend I hadn’t seen for some 40 year totally by accident in a place we both normally aren’t…. We spoke for half an hour and met the next day (yesterday) for a lake cruise and a walk-about with coffee – and we both remembered fondly our wonderful and stupid acts of our late teenage years together! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, OG. Sometimes this gets mixed up with ego. Bloated Ego. There’s nothing wrong with ego. In TV news, ego is part of the fuel that drives you forward every day. You always want to be first — with the best coverage of the story. You’re always challenged by the complexity of the story. It’s never black and white — not just who and where. It’s the “why” — the genesis of the story. There’s always background. It’s happened before — somewhere else — in another time. If you can find that perspective, you bring comprehension and understanding to why things “happen”. Yes, we’re talking about history.
      Excuse me, I have to off my soap box.

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  3. You sound like me. I always want to achieve more than I have, and I never feel I’ve achieved enough. As far as I can see, though, you’ve pretty much got there. Well done. 🙂

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        1. Alli, so very, very true. I told this anecdote before but it bears repetition. One of the first “celebrity” interviews I did — was with Merv Griffin who was then at the height of his fame. The interview went smoothly. As we packed up our gear, Griffin smiled at me and said — “Nice work….you have a bright future”. I was flattered but puzzled. Griffin’s smile grew bigger, “You listened to me and asked intelligent follow up questions. You didn’t lean on a list prepared questions. You made it a conversation”. I blinked , “..but isn’t that the way you’re supposed to do interviews?” Griffin: “Yes, Garry. But many interviewers, especially young interviewers don’t do that. They’re usually star-struck and don’t listen. You ALWAYS must listen to people you interview. ALWAYS”. That would always be my mantra.

          Except, maybe, when Marilyn and I are talking…..

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          1. Oh well, it’s different when you’re ‘off duty’! Great story, Garry, and it shows what a natural you are. Griffin was right though – many people in general don’t listen properly, and don’t show an interest in the other person in two-way conversations in general, let alone in interviews. There’s an art to conversation that is sadly lacking today. It must have been a real boost when Griffin told you you’d got it right. 🙂

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    1. Alli, thanks. It feels as if I walked a long road. I don’t have any real ambition to get back out there. Time to let another generation take the ball and good luck to them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Indeed, they’ll need good luck though, it’s a tough old world out there now. Enjoy your time off – you’ve earned it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Tas, I was 19, 20, or 21. Not sure about the year. Pic of me in my Marine Summer Khakis makes me look like a boy scout. Golly!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m pretty damn sure, Garry, you are one of the best that ever were! Your accomplishments accolades aside, you spoke with integrity honesty and truth. You are still that man and as I see it, you are one of the greatest there ever was! I applaud you and feel inspired to stand tall in your presence. That says something about you and me. I don’t say it lightly and very rarely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It was fabulous to hear your backstory, Garry. Perhaps the price of being the best ever is too high and chews up too many people along the way? Being the best, at any point in time, takes a huge team effort. But yeah, I completely understand. Your post speaks of a restless spirit. When I feel like that, I normally sing it out. I recommend The Chimes version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” You have to sing it loud and accompany it with interpretative dance. Try it. Then afterwards, go hug Marilyn. Kind Regards. Tracy.

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