When the Phillies unloaded Cliff Lee to make room for Roy Halladay in a deal worth many millions, it coincided with my boss telling me to get ready, because I'd be filling in for Mike Armstrong this week.
Great! I could explore how it is that men who hurl stitched cowhide for a living are appraised like van Goghs at auction. What is the formula for one's worth? It would be fun.
I had done the requisite reading and located business experts who measure success and failure in greenbacks.
Then came yesterday.
In a Northeast Philadelphia church, a friend named Timmy eulogized a man named Marty. Uncle Marty. "Unc," as he was known. From a pew, I witnessed life reaching its terminal apex as loved ones appraised all that had been lost.
No need for a Wharton expert here. Words from the pulpit traced an algorithm that measures us all — yacht owners and bus riders, billionaires and wage earners.
"You see, Unc was all about family. And his umbrella was huge," said Tim, one of the many nieces and nephews who worshiped the man. "To be in his presence made you feel like the most important person in the world. He was kind, giving, attentive, patient, and always happy. In a word, he was love."
Unc is not the kind of guy you'd normally read about on the Business Page. He was a retired SEPTA mechanic married to a retired school-cafeteria worker. Orphaned as a child, he fought for his country, married, had two children, and added two orphaned youngsters to his brood when his sister-in-law died.
"He was a man who played the hand that was dealt him with never a complaint," said Tim, two of whose siblings were raised by Uncle Marty.
But if optimism could be bottled, he would have had his own jet and a Main Line estate. The drug gangs that took over his North Philadelphia block in the 1980s? No worries. A brother-in-law broke down retelling how Marty welcomed him home from Vietnam with a smile. That smile, though, was no match for the cancer that took him Christmas week, at 71.
"Take it easy," he liked to say. "Take it easy."
Mike Armstrong is away. Contact Maria Panaritis at 215-854-2431or email@example.com.