Category Archives: current events

How the 2019 Washington Nationals Made Us Believe

On May 24th, the Washington Nationals are 19-31, twelve games below .500. They are no hits, no runs and all errors. With injuries piling up as fast as losses, I confess, there were several evenings I just had to turn the game off because I couldn’t watch the bullpen implode one more time: self-flagellation’s not my style.

Yet, the very next day I would turn the game on again. Come on, Nats! Every game’s a new game! New pitchers. New field. 0-0 score. Let’s go!

But really? Did I ever give a second’s thought to this team making a run into the post season? Hardly. A moment of consideration to a run through post season? Not a chance. WIN the World Series? Come on, man, whatchu smokin’? These are the Washington Nationals, we’re talking about. Full of talent that takes us to highest precipice, where the air is thin and the view is fine, just in time to let us fall with a thud that reverberates throughout the region.

I thought it was just me who was icing my bruises from seasons past until a random fly-by interaction in the grocery store, specifically in the produce section, near the bananas. The guy pushing his cart toward me was sporting a Nats hat and, as the team’s fortune of late had taken a decidedly upward turn, I hazarded a, “How ‘bout those Nats?” Expecting a fist bump or at least a thumbs up, I got an eye roll instead. “Plenty of time for them to let us down again,” the man said, rolling past the bananas.

Funny to sport a hat from the team you expect to disappoint you, I thought. Yet, I had to admit that Banana Man’s logic felt familiar. He reminded me how this team had dashed our hopes in many seasons past; jeez, not only dashed, they had stomped them and mashed them into the ground just to be sure they were extinguished. Why should this year be any different?

Ironically, I had made it all the way to August without letting that thought slip in, mostly because the Nats early season performance had been so pitiful there weren’t many highs to fall from. But, in the span of a produce-section moment, there it was suspended in mid-air. Don’t let your heart hope; these guys will only break it. I felt so sad for Banana Man and the duplicitous me, then. I mean, not only did this mindset defy post season possibility, it put a pall on today’s good play. Not only did it rob tomorrow of its hope, it stole today’s joy.

So, thank you Banana Man, keeper of dark times past, you stood me up straight right there in the Publix produce. How often do I fail to celebrate the genuine good of the day in order to protect myself from the worse that may lurk around the bend? How easy it is to listen to the voice that says, Don’t get too giddy because it can’t last. Don’t be too proud because someone’s better. Don’t risk believing because it’ll make a fool of you … That’s its slippery mantra, the commentary it seems to insert into every genuinely hopeful notion.

Funny thing, though. In spite of the doubt, nay-saying and my occasional faltering fandom, the Nats kept up their winning ways. They moved on up the standings, overtaking their nearest competitors and, against all odds, landed themselves a Wild Card spot in the post season.

Hope was alive! — although holding on by its teeth. Defying the odds-makers who had them as underdogs in every contest, this team scraped up runs where there were none in every winner-take-all-loser-go-home contest, almost as if there was some divine intervention involved.

Game by game, those Nats made a believer out of me, though I cannot say I held doubt at bay. Nope, it lolled and lingered into the late innings most evenings, requiring me to distract myself with Sudoku puzzles to quell the apprehension. Blessedly, I got a brief respite from the tension in the league series against the St Louis Cardinals, so I could shore up to endure the wild mood swings ahead in the seven games against the Astros. “Dare we hope?” I texted a fellow fan. It all felt like a good dream I didn’t want to wake up from.

But wake up we did, and those Nats were still World Series Champions. The team that had been buried under doubt in the spring found resurrection in October. So here I stand before the greatest upset, the greatest comeback(s), the greatest lovefest, the greatest postseason, and perhaps the greatest World Series win of all time, with a handful of clichés and a heart full of memories. How much this team taught us. Heck, how many pep talks can we adopt from this team?! They just roll …

  • If you stay in the fight, you’ll give yourself a chance to win it.
  • As long as you’ve got a swing, the game’s not over.
  • Improbable is not impossible.
  • When you’re in a slump, nothing picks you up better than a kid’s song.
  • Get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get em in.
  • Go 1-0 today. Then go 1-0 tomorrow.
  • The weight on my shoulders is way lighter distributed 25 ways.
  • Let the bad call go so you can put the next pitch into the bleachers.
  • Guts alone are rarely enough, but sometimes they’re just enough.
  • Dance like there’s no one watching, even on national tv.
  • Sometimes bumpy roads do lead to beautiful places.

But the one thing the 2019 Washington Nationals taught me comes as a confession, courtesy of Banana Man. I had my doubts, all the way to Game 7 of the World Series, but that doesn’t make me an unbeliever. Belief leaves room for doubt; it just doesn’t rent it a room. Hardships, losses, strikeouts, blow ups, injuries and the doubt that arrives with them … this season would have been nothing without watching — no living — those first. Those formed the stairway we climbed together all the way to wake up day.

Yesterday’s doubts are what makes today’s belief real.

On the morning of game 7, with the series tied at 3-3, (and the scheduled starter, the ace pitcher, newly emerged from a neck brace!) I found it really tempting to say, “You know, whatever happens tonight, it’s been a great season.” (which it certainly had!) But no championship team has ever uttered those words before taking the field for a deciding game. Me and my Cracker Jacks, we were All In.

Believe in what you’re doing today. Go ahead, go 1-0. (Thank you, Davey Martinez.) There will be plenty of time to be sad if you lose. Don’t let that expectation steal today’s joy. Today is the day you can do something about.

Nats, they had you down, but not out. They had you depleted, but not defeated. They had you on the ropes, but not without hopes. That’s when you flipped the script, and hoisted us doubters into the believer seats way up above the clouds where the air is rare and the view is oh, so fine. It may be a long way down, but somewhere along this rickety, risky, scrabbly climb with you through the 2019 season I seem to have lost my fear of heights.

Now I can go bananas!

Who Missed Manny Machado?

There are many kinds of poverty.

During the MLB National League Championship Series, I have observed a stark demonstration of poverty: the very impoverished behavior of an exceptional individual. He is talented, capable, skilled and highly paid. But, by the way he plays and the way he behaves, he shows a deep, deep poverty. He is impoverished in character.

The both fortunate and unfortunate thing about character is that it’s consistent. How one speaks, behaves, performs, and responds all tend to point in a single direction. They follow the same course, here, there and everywhere. As I have heard it expressed, “We are the same in every room.”

The both good and bad thing about character is that it is learned. Not necessarily taught, but learned. We learn it from the people, places and opportunities around us. We are shaped by our circumstances, environments, boundaries and consequences. In these, we are guided or we are not. We learn from these. We are shaped by these. For good or not.

If we are well-guided, we are propelled, as far as our talents will take us and beyond this, by our character which carries us. But if we are not well guided, if we get a “pass” on poor behavior or are excused because of “extenuating circumstances” when we are young and formative, then the results are often grim.

I have been watching grim in the NLCS.

Let’s take this All-American opportunity in the celebration of our national past time to address this truth: an excellent rating in the skills portion while dismissing the failing grade earned in spirit of the game is the worst kind of poverty.

If life’s teachers, coaches, mentors, guardians, parents, friends and colleagues issue us a smile and a pass because we’re “gifted,” while it may seem harmless, it may be the greatest of tragedies. For, if life allows us to get a failing grade in relationships, we fail at life. Because, in the end, it’s all we have. Or we don’t.

There are many kinds of poverty. There are many who are in need. Who missed Manny?IMG_1987

Dear Christine, Dear Brett

Dear Christine Blasey Ford,

I believe you.

For the same reason Bible scholars offer to believe the first disciples, witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. Though they could not produce physical evidence other than their first-person testimony (which varied from evangelist to evangelist) and could not provide tangible proof for investigating authorities. No, they are to be believed because no one would lie about something that cost them so much. Nearly all of them died brutal deaths for the testimony they refused to recant. “We have seen the Lord; He is risen.” (See John 20:18, Matthew 28:6)

The testimony you have given has cost you dearly. May it bring you closure and peace.

***

Dear Brett Kavanaugh,

I am sorry.

Our young lives should not direct the course of our whole lives. When we do things we may regret later, encumbered by still-developing minds, bodies and souls, should we have to answer for these?  I’m not sure. But I know this: denying them is deadly. Womankind is now being encouraged to be vulnerable, to share, to face our fears, and we are. (Thank you, Brene Brown.) This is bringing us health and strength and stature. But mankind is trailing behind. Vulnerability, honesty, and sharing are something men — especially men in powerful positions — still avoid if they want to continue their pursuit of wealth, power and worldly success.

I wish, for your sake, that you didn’t have to wipe this incident from your memory. That you didn’t have to find reasons why political foes would put someone up to saying this about you. That you didn’t need to save face by glossing over facts and inventing new truths. I wish you could look back on your life, face up to all that’s happened and live out of its lessons. For we are all meant to. I wish, for your sake, there was a Brene Brown for men.

Then, you could look at Christine Blasey Ford and apologize for the hurt you caused, the harm you may not have been aware of, and then you could share how you have allowed the incidents of your life to shape you. In-form you. Make you a wiser you. And we could believe you and hope that you would bring this maturity of self and clarity of character to our Supreme Court.

I wish our world was a better place for men, as it is fast becoming a better place for women. Unfortunately, in our current circumstance, now one question remains. If a sexual harassment indictment is brought against a Supreme Court Justice, can he (or she) be removed from a lifetime appointment?

Sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen

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