I am a lifelong Astros fan. The intensity of my love for this team has ebbed and flowed over the years. Baseball almost lost me during the steroid era but after a multi-year lull, I returned. I like other sports but there is something special about baseball and the Astros. In case you somehow haven’t heard, the Astros won the World Series on November 1, 2017. Many folks will say it is just a game but for me, it was a life-changing event. When I woke up on November 2nd with my World Series hangover, I began to reflect on why baseball is so important to me.
The first reason is longevity. I have been following the Astros since I was a child in the mid-1960s. I am not sure when I attended my first game, but I do remember Jimmy Wynn and Rusty Staub as my favorite players during this period. I recall the Astrodome as the most amazing stadium of its time. As smoking was allowed inside back in the day, there was a cloud of smoke hanging over the field the entire game. Another highlight was seeing the grounds crew dressed as spacemen as they dragged the infield during the 5th inning. There is no telling how many games I have engaged with either watching, listening or attending in person. I believe it is easily over 1000 games. When I was a child, my primary way of connecting with the Astros was my transistor radio. After my mom told me to go to bed, I would turn on the radio and listen to the game through the earphone (sorry Mom). Many times, I would wake up late in the night with the game long over with my radio still on playing music or the news.
The second reason baseball is important in my life is heritage. My father loved baseball and passed that love on to me. My father died when I was 23 and I now find elements of his essence slipping from my memory. Baseball is the crutch that clarifies my father’s presence and the influence he had and continues to have, on my life. The games we attended and times we listened on the radio are crystal clear in my mind. Baseball revives these memories of my father like nothing else adding to the beauty and wonder of this great sport. I have been able to instill a passion for baseball in my children and I hope they can continue this legacy with their own families. Baseball is an old sport steeped in history and tradition. Baseball has been a constant for many generations and is rooted in the fabric of American history. There is a common thread of thousands of games and overlapping careers binding today’s players to those players of old.
The third reason for the significant role of baseball in my life is, baseball is timeless. In this day of distraction, instant communication and time-bound lives, baseball has no clock and is not over until the proper number of outs have been recorded. Time drives most elements of our lives and we can’t control its relentless march forward. Time is what takes away the freshness of youth and brings the pain and struggles of old age. We can’t escape the relentless boundaries of time. For me, baseball is a way to escape, at least emotionally, from the constant drumbeat of time. Many people complain that baseball is slow, lasts too long and needs to change. I support some of these changes but fundamentally, baseball is unique and provides a needed escape from the constant time pressure of today’s society.
Fourth and finally, baseball is a sport of failure and overcoming adversity. I have lived through many Astro disappointments. The playoffs of 1980 and 1986 generate particularly intense memories. I attended a World Series game in 2005 but that team was not ready for the big stage. I still flinch when I hear the name Albert Pujols. In the past I have let myself become emotionally “all in” on the Astros playoff runs and have had my dreams shattered every time. As this year’s Astros pushed further into the playoffs, I began to ask myself how far would I let myself go this time? Was I emotionally ready to have my hopes dashed again? I was slow to commit my emotions. My son was helpful in that he inspired me to attend one of the ALCS games with the Yankees. Still, I had a feeling of foreboding dread each time the next Astros playoff game started. I became strangely superstitious, for example, I would not wear any of my Astro gear while watching the games on TV. In the end, I hung in there and watched the world series, including the exciting game 7. It is truly better to love and lose rather than not love at all. The lesson for me is not to fear letting my emotions go. I should spend my emotions more freely and certainly not just with sporting events. We can’t be so afraid of losing that we don’t try. Logically I know this, emotionally it is still a struggle for me.
So, this world series victory was a defining moment for me. It was probably not so impactful for many of you. What are the key points of this self-centered, rambling post? Longevity and heritage are good things. Maintaining a lifelong passion that connects to our family helps define who we are. Commitment and connections are important elements of our personal and professional lives. Finally, we should not be afraid to fail. It takes a logical and emotional effort to try something that might end in failure. The lesson from baseball is the best batters fail ~70% of the time. It is ok to fail. We need to shake off any self-pity and quickly step back up to the plate. Are you afraid to fail? Don’t let fear of failure lead you to that dreaded feeling of regret. Don’t be afraid, put yourself out there, take the risk!
Make the most of this day!