Apr 6, 2009

Opening Day

While here in New York both the Mets and the Yankees open on the road (good thing--it's pouring in NY today!) before unveiling their new ballparks officially (translation: in a game that counts) baseball is back.

May the Cubbies take it all this year and end their drought of 101 years without a World Series win. As my friend Mike Caragliano (who is a national baseball trivia champion) always teases me: "Your team hasn't won the world series in my GREAT grandfather's lifetime."

I'm off to punch him in the arm now.

But baseball is a game that is really about loss rather than winning. The best hitters get a hit only 3 times every 10 at bats. The best teams will lose at least one third of their games. And pitchers are never sharp every single time. There's always a clunker in the mix. Slumps, losing streaks, trades and arguing with the ump are all a part of the great American pastime.

When I covered baseball, back in my radio days the better stories were always in the losing locker room. When the Yankees won their first in a recent set of World Series wins in 1996, Derek Jeter was a rather boring interview. One reporter wondered if he was happy. Several players on the Braves team showed up outside of the Yankee locker room and congratulated their opposition. Something you almost never see, at least not publicly. Loss again, breeds more than winning.

Growing up as a Mets fan (and then abandoning them because I saw the arrogance of their owner up close in personal in my radio days), those first few years of rooting were covered in losses. The Mets in the late 70s and early 80s stunk. I built a lot of character in those years and when they finally won the World Series in 1986, I gloated like the best of them. But looking back, I think I remember the losing teams more fondly.

Thus now as a Cubs fan, I have gotten back into the spirit of learning to live with loss. It's an acquired skill. I needed two tums to go to sleep after the Bartman foul ball incident. I was crushed at the way they fell apart this year, texting a friend who was sitting in the friendly confines while it unfolded, or perhaps better stated, folded. But it's all part of the game. Kids learn this fast. My little league team lost its first game 37-0. As the last out was recorded I started to wail. My coach looked at me and said, "You've been losing by more than 10 runs since the first inning. Did it just occur to you now that you were going to lose? Relax there's always another game and even if you lose them all, this is about learning." He was right.

As my parents get older and the years quickly drift by I realize that I will lose much more than I gain--and that's even with many significant gains. I was told recently by a high school friend that she was proud of how I've taken many painful experience from our high school years and turned them into something positive. But truth be told, sometimes loss just sucks.

When there is nothing to do and no way to explain why bad things happen, I often look to baseball for comfort. Besides my faith, baseball teaches me that loss may be painful but there is always another game, another season, another at-bat, another turn on the mound. Life is not for the faint-hearted but for those who keep getting up off the bench and having another go.

Loss indeed is painful. But as we strike forward into Holy Week we find our savior hanging on a cross only to see him return to us after a short while. The veil between death and life is torn and we are forever changed. No baseball game has that much drama or carries that much weight. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus has already handled it all for us. We all are doomed to lose but our losses can and indeed are redeemed.

And in some ways that is what makes opening day so special. There is only redemption. All the teams are 0-0 and everyone has an equal chance to win it all. Enjoy rooting for the home team and the hot dogs.

But remember, you are going to lose. It's only a matter of time.

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