I wanted to hate this song when I first heard it.
But it’s very catchy, the second verse is about baseball, and I can’t stop muttering “I wrote the book” under my breath when I do anything of value.
Loading the dishwasher like I’m playing Varsity Tetris? I wrote the book.
Roasting a perfectly medium-rare tri-tip? I wrote the book.
Crushing a few too many IPAs after the kids are in bed? I wrote the book.
Morgan Wallen’s “I Wrote the Book,” one of the 36 songs from his most recent album that are simultaneously charting on the Billboard Hot 100, spoke to me, apparently. And that baseball verse stood out as I started coaching my son’s Little League team again:
“If you wanna learn
To throw a curve right
To catch a clean up
Lookin’ on a third strike
Talk a little smack
While he’s walkin’ back
Yeah, I wrote the book…”
Wallen’s bro-ey bravado comes through strong in this track as he brags about being the expert at everything, including ringing up some unnamed clean-up hitter with his nasty curve ball. I don’t know if it was Wallen or HARDY or Cameron Montgomery (his co-writers on the song) who decided to center the song around the cocky phrase, “I wrote the book.” But unfortunately for me, I can’t get it, or the song, out of my head.
And unfortunately for all the five and six-year-olds I’ll be coaching this season, they won’t hear the end of it either:
Squaring up a fastball and watching it sail into the midday sun? I wrote the book.
Painting the outside corner with a 3-2 heater? I wrote the book.
Sending a message to that shit-talking #5 with some high-and-tight chin music? I wrote the book.
Of course, I’ll embellish these stories just a little. Every Little League coach has a little “Uncle Rico” in him because every Little League coach is a washed-up dad like me. Like the lovable loser character in 2004’s “Napoleon Dynamite,” we all pine for our youth and think fondly of the skills we learned to master, and conveniently forget the stuff we were bad at.
If I was being completely honest to my Little Leaguers, my lessons would sound a little different:
Swinging out of my shoes and striking out every 1.7 at-bats? I wrote the book.
Giving up tape-measure homeruns into the nether regions of the parking lot? I wrote the book.
Feasting on fistfuls of sunflower seeds while riding the bench? I wrote the book.
While it may be tempting to brag about our accomplishments while lecturing the Mike Trouts and Clayton Kershaws of tomorrow, it’s far more effective to coach a sport like baseball from a place of humility. Baseball is a game rife with failure, where the best hitters have success only 3 out of 10 times and the best pitchers sometimes get rocked.
As a coach, I’ve learned that sharing your failures, especially when you’re teaching kids, is a far better strategy than leading with your many successes (loosely-fabricated or otherwise). Leading with weakness helps anyone work their way through their inevitable low points, in baseball or in life.
Even Morgan Wallen gets it. “I Wrote the Book” quickly shifts from a bro country brag track to a more introspective theme, one where the protagonist realizes that, despite all of his many talents, his life didn’t turn out the way he’d thought. He reflects on his many mistakes and you’re left wondering if he’ll ever take his own advice, make a change, and start reading that “one book [he] didn’t write.”
It’s not the perfect song, but I don’t hate it. In fact, I appreciate the somewhat surprising message of humility and reflection hidden beneath the drum machine beats of one of Wallen’s many new hits.
And perhaps it’s given me a new message to convey to my Little Leaguers:
Making mistakes and trying to get better? I wrote the book.