Election week was hard for me. My wife could not take her eyes off Steve Kornacki, MSNBC’s political correspondent and chartthrob. Carol was glued to the TV. (MSNBC provided a “Kornacki Cam” in the corner of the screen during commercial breaks.) Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid were fine, but Carol lit up whenever Steve Kornacki showed why he is America’s Map Daddy.
Carol did not speak to me when Steve was on, but I did hear her say, “I’ll be back in a minute, Steve.” Many wanted the networks to call the presidential election earlier so the country could move forward. I just wanted my wife back.
Steve is a magician zooming in and out on his giant touch-screen digital map. He has NASA-level technology at his fingertips, and yet he inexplicably waves pens and papers. When most people gesticulate wildly, it makes others nervous, but Steve’s disheveled energy is oddly soothing.
Steve is smarter than the rest of us. He knows the name of every county in the United States and seems to have visited all of them. Steve has mad math skills. He calculates odds and offers complex political analysis on the fly. In most high schools, geeks are unpopular, but this mathlete is everyone’s homecoming king.
“Steve kept going and going and going, doing math nonstop, relentlessly updating vote totals, all day, all night, day after day, night after night.”
Steve kept going and going and going, doing math nonstop, relentlessly updating vote totals, all day, all night, day after day, night after night: “Forget grabbing sleep, there are more votes coming in Pennsylvania!” Carol worried more about Steve getting sleep than about her own sleep. Is it possible that MSNBC refused to call the race because they wanted to see how long Steve could stay awake? Steve says his energy comes from Diet Coke and adrenaline, but his marathon made it clear he has gifts that the rest of us can only imagine.
Steve dresses like a college professor who does not have tenure. If I wore the same clothes for three days, I would be ridiculed, but Steve makes it cool. His khakis stay ironed. His sleeves stay rolled up. His tie stays tied.
Like Steve, I wear glasses, but he looks like Chris Hemsworth if Chris Hemsworth wore glasses. Like Steve, I wear khaki pants, but I look like an old man looking for the shuffleboard court. Like Steve, I own a clipboard, but it never occurred to me to carry it everywhere.
Carol’s feelings for Steve are disconcerting, but she is part of a huge fan base. I have pointed out to Carol that we are old enough to be 41-year-old Steve’s parents, but that only underscores how energetic Steve is. He has 543,000 Twitter followers and his own emoji.
I cannot compete with someone who has his own emoji. I have spent 37 years trying to impress Carol, so it is hard to admit that I cannot be what Steve Kornacki was for her last week.
I need to be more mature when Steve returns next Election Day, but my jealousy makes sense. I am not good at math. I go to bed at 10:30. My tie does not stay straight. I have no Twitter followers.
If I compare myself to Steve Kornacki, I will come up short, because, like most, I have been taught that we either climb to the top of the heap or are dissatisfied that we are not at the top.
Everyone who requires sleep, cannot do calculus in their head or has friends who are not as smart as Brian, Rachel and Joy needs a better understanding. If we sit pouting in the corner, sulking because we are not Steve Kornacki, then we have not recognized who God is.
God does not ask, “Why aren’t you Steve Kornacki?” God does not set the bar that high. God asks, “Why are you jealous?”
We do not have to be the best. We should not feel bad about who we are not. We only need to be who we are supposed to be. Anyway, that is what I told Carol.
Brett Younger serves as senior minister at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.