My junior year in college we were participating in a double elimination tournament, playing game two after having already won the first game the day before. Having already exhausted some bullpen options, and the deficit growing larger, the coach decided to make one last pitching change in an attempt to give us a shot at a comeback. In all fairness, my memory fades with age, but I’m pretty sure I could have played the rest of that inning without a glove behind home plate as pitch after pitch was sent back with three times the force it was thrown. One particular BOMB was met with a high five from me to the batter when he touched home plate having been proud just to witness it. A vivid memory of the day will be the voice of our pitcher’s mom. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, she continually shouted the same refrain over and over – “You got this Tommy. You can do this!” It was both inspirational and comically delusional, and prompted the umpire to whisper in my ear, “Dear God that woman loves her boy.” In what I hoped was an act of mercy, our coach called time to walk out to the mound. As Tommy started to hand him the ball, our coach said, “I’m gonna need you to take the beating and finish this up. We need to start thinking about tomorrow. Today is for pride, tomorrow is for glory. It’s just you….and your mom. Believe in yourself the way she believes in you and this will all be over soon.” As we both turned to go back, I quietly asked him if he was sure about this and he told me that he’s known the kid for 6 months, she’s known him for 19 years and that he was hoping her scouting report was better than his. And, quite frankly, we needed to save the arms for tomorrow.
Fifteen runs and fifty-seven minutes later, her career as a scout ended. To this day, I still have to shout the memory of that inning out of my head. It’s one of those memories equivalent to ending a call with your boss by saying, “I love you too”. You just never get past it! Or should I say some people, like myself, never get past it. To Tom’s credit, and his families credit, they got past it the very next day. He and his family cheered as we won that third game knowing he was not going to ever play in it. They didn’t dwell on it or harbor resentment towards being left in there. They just showed up the next day with the belief that it was going to be better than yesterday. Either way, tomorrow for them was always going to be better than today. For them, it was a learning experience and not a reason to pull back with resentment, fear or hatred. When you are young, you hope to learn something to help you in life. Sometimes, you are too stupid and arrogant to recognize a true teaching moment, and the lesson is lost on you until you blog about it 32 years later.
Are we in another true teaching moment? We are taking a beating right now, and there are no fresh arms warming up. Personally, I’ve lost employees because business has dried up, friends are losing jobs, my already fragile mental health is being tested by isolation and the resulting dynamic changes in relationships, savings are starting to dwindle, clients end every touch with “might be 2021, we just don’t know”, and my daughter’s boyfriend broke her heart leaving me to pick up the pieces! I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always been a glass is half empty and it’s cracked kind of guy. I’m a data guy and I love to deal in absolutes, and right now there are very few absolutes to help forecast. I’m having a hard time staying positive, and I’m quite certain I’m not alone.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is my former employee who now works for a large sporting community. Every day she posts inspirational quotes for the community, and once or twice a week we will chat and she will throw in something motivational knowing first hand how I can struggle at times. No question, she is doing it for me as a friend who cares, but more importantly she is doing it for herself. She believes and she knows that tomorrow will be better than today, which was better than yesterday. Much like Tom’s family, the key for her to move forward is belief. Belief in herself most of all, and what she will capitalize on to move forward when life resumes again.
Self awareness is a powerful thing, and I know the lesson I’ve learned is that if we are going to come out of this crisis and get our lives back, we are all going to have to extend beyond our mental comfort zone. We are going to need more people who forget the past and don’t let what happened today effect them tomorrow. We are going to need people to be leaders in showing people the way out and back into a normal civilization where human contact and connection is vital. If we’ve learned anything from this lock down its that isolation is a serious blow to the well-being of us all. This isn’t about data, this is about belief. About putting aside fear, hate or resentment and coming together because you can’t wait for the sun to rise and we can all enjoy it together, as one.
Both my coach and Tom’s family held the one strong belief that kept them going – today is going to be tough, but we must endure. Keep throwing, keep cheering and keep going for yourself and for everyone else who is currently out of the game. Keep going, because there is always the belief that tomorrow will be better for you and for everyone. Believe.