Why MLB announcer with cerebral palsy loves 'awkward moments' in public
For most people, awkward moments aren’t great. But Chicago White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti encourages them. For him, it’s all part of living with cerebral palsy, and part of teaching everyone — kids and adults — what it means to live with a disability.
What’s the “Awkward Moments” campaign?
The Cerebral Palsy Foundation recruited Benetti to be the voice of their new “Awkward Moments” campaign. The goal is to shed light on some of the things disabled people have to deal with in their lives, like when they’re at the grocery store or at the movies, and to present creative and funny solutions.
The first episode is called “The Disability Blurt Out,” and it talks about how to deal with the inevitable questions that come up when a kid sees a disabled person in public. It’s lighthearted, honest, and very funny.
Does cerebral palsy affect Benetti’s job with the White Sox?
Benetti, 34, was born 10 weeks premature. He told CNN in 2016 that not long after, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which is a neurological disorder that affects motor functions and balance. He had several surgeries, but his only lasting issues are with his eyes and his walk — he has a lazy eye and a limp, but has no residual pain. Neither of those things directly affect his job as play-by-play announcer.
Steve Stone, Benetti’s partner in the booth, says that just one thing bothers Benetti about living with cerebral palsy.
“I think the only thing that really aggravates him is when people treat him in a different manner because he has CP,” he added. “Everybody has something. He happens to have this, but it hasn’t stood in the way of anything he’s ever accomplished. I don’t think he views himself as an inspiration, but he truly is.”
Awkward moments are teachable moments
Benetti doesn’t shy away from those awkward moments with kids. He knows that the only way for kids to learn is for them to ask. Here’s what he told Phil Thompson at the Chicago Tribune.
“None of this is a fault issue,” Benetti said. “If you haven’t encountered somebody with specific traits that you’re seeing, what can you do to figure out who they are? And the answer is just learn about them. Rather than trying to avoid the question or stifle the kid who says, ‘Hey, Mom, why does that person walk like that?’ answer the question and then it becomes more understood in the person’s mind.”
He added, “For the most part, it’s all out of kindness, that’s why I did this (campaign).… It’s not a not a blame issue, they’re just funny, ridiculous instances.”
If children are told the right answer instead of being told not to ask, it won’t be weird to them. Seeing someone with a disability won’t be scary, it’ll just be normal. Questions aren’t bad — they’re important to understanding and accepting the world around you. That’s the whole purpose of the “Awkward Moments” campaign, and why Benetti taking part.
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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at email@example.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher.
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