This is the season of gratitude – an attitude I admit is difficult for me to consistently maintain. I am grateful for a constant in my life: sports, and the ability it has given me to connect with people I love, even when not much else may be working.
Right now I am watching a show I just stumbled upon on possibly my favorite channel - “Baseball’s Seasons” on MLBNetwork. The current year being profiled is 1981, which makes me happy for obvious reasons. I can’t claim to remember every detail of the Dodgers’ World Series championship. I was 7 – well, 8 in September.
I do remember Fernandomania. I remember Mike Scioscia behind the plate and Davey Lopes running the bases. I remember going to spring training months before and waiting in line with my daddy for Jerry Reuss’ autograph. (I’m pretty sure it was 1981. I just texted Daddy to check. He’s not sure but we’re gonna go with that.)
I text my family about sports regularly. I don’t call my parents or my brother nearly as often as I should. Lots of times, I don’t feel I have anything interesting to say. But a quick text about Clemson football sent to everyone at once serves several purposes. It lets everyone know I’m thinking about them, and it gives everyone chance to talk – if only for a few seconds, about a seemingly inconsequential subject.
Things are complicated with my brother right now. We can leave it at that. It’s hard to explain and understand, but it’s painful, for me and most especially for my mother. I know a group text expressing my concern that the Tigers are going to beat my South Carolina Gamecocks by 40 doesn’t fix anything, but it does feel like it does something – a very little something, but something. Maybe that’s a delusion I create and stoke for myself. Maybe that’s OK.
In 1981, baseball had its problems. It survived a work stoppage to produce a memorable NL Division Series between two of the best pitching staffs ever assembled (Fernando Valenzuela vs. Nolan Ryan? Are you kidding me? Reuss vs. Niekro?) and a classic World Series victory against the Evil Empire New York Yankees. There was pain, and then there was joy.
Not to simplify things to a T-shirt slogan, but baseball is life, in many ways. In the pain, one can remember the joy, and choose to have faith that the future holds more of it. During holidays when I can’t have everyone I love in one place, I can be grateful that all those people are in my life. I can practice shutting off the Negative Whoa Nelly who takes up so much space in my head and replacing her venomous voice with the happiness I remember, the happiness I feel now, and the happiness I know awaits.
At least on days when I watch the Dodgers win the World Series, anyway.