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I often find myself on the golf course (usually in a greenside bunker) asking myself why I keep coming back. Then, within the next couple of hours (usually when squeezing two fingers between the flagstick and the inner wall of the cup to pick my ball out of the hole), I start planning my next round.
The great thing about sports is the humanity it reawakens within us. We hear sayings like, “You can do anything you put your mind to,” but we never really believe those things until we see things like we saw Thursday night.
The St. Louis Cardinals did the seemingly impossible in the last couple months.
Just days before September, the Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the playoffs. With five days left in the regular season, they were three games back of the wild card-leading Atlanta Braves.
Not only did they somehow make the playoffs, but they went on to beat the heavily-favored Philadelphia Phillies and ultimately win the World Series. The whole run was essentially capped off with a miraculous comeback win in Game 6 of the World Series Thursday night. Sure, they had to win Game 7, but like the 2003 Marlins over the Cubs or the 1986 Mets over the Red Sox, the Cards had it won after six. You could have almost stopped the series and said that St. Louis won it, 3-3.
“You had to be here to believe it,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after the magical Game 6. “We never quit trying.”
There’s another one we hear all the time: “Never give up.”
In life — at work, in school, and in relationships with other people — we face impossible odds. Our dreams fade behind every obstacle that drops into our path and we end up ignoring every piece of advice Mom and Dad ever gave us and we seriously consider what we feel is inevitable — giving up.
Then we remember David Freese’s triple in the bottom of the ninth inning after being down to his team’s last strike. We remember Lance Berkman’s duck snort into centerfield to tie it in the tenth inning. If that’s not enough, we remember Freese’s second round of heroics — a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh.
Yeah, yeah, call it childish, naïve, or superficial to call upon sports moments in our desperate times. Maybe it is, and maybe we don’t do it consciously. But moments like Thursday night invigorate us in both conscious and subconscious ways, ways that make real life tolerable and impossible dreams attainable.
In short, it’s why we keep coming back.
While our loved ones tell us that our dreams can come true, life’s cynics tell us that those with the most talent or power or money win. We’re told size does matter and that it’s not what you know, but who you know. That may be partially true, but we are also told that there’s nothing we can do about it. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox sit at home and tweet about what happened on Thursday night.
This is why we love sports. A psychologist would tell us it’s a release and a way to escape real life. A sociologist would tell us it brings communities and countries together.
But, at the end of the day, we come back to it time and again because it inspires us.
Fans in St. Louis arrived home Thursday night light headed and hanging on to their voice for dear life. After a long day of work, that would have been miserable, but after a ballgame, they were in heaven. They probably didn’t sleep much Thursday night, for obviously different reasons than Texas fans. Both fan bases probably took Friday off, but both the Rangers fans and Cardinals fans will have learned something from this World Series, something about hope.
David Freese did something for everyone who watched that World Series. Cardinals fans will show up to work on Monday revitalized and filled with hope. Rangers fans probably won’t, but somewhere down the road they will have more hope in the midst of life’s struggles because of what happened this past week. Everyone who became emotionally attached to this World Series will have learned that it is okay to hope for impossible things.
It’s okay to hope for the next big promotion or the next good grade, the right relationship to come along or a past friendship to be restored, a new path to be found or a way back to the right one, a brighter future or a less dim past.
Because of our experience with sports, we step back from the logical, statistic-driven and routine-laden lives we sometimes have to live and rekindle the emotions that make us human. We understand that sometimes we can do everything right and still get a bad hop that jumps up and hits us right in the mouth. We realize that even the best hitter gets out 7-out-of-10 times.
Sure, there are other ways to get it — in the movie theaters, on television shows or from books — but sport is different. Which brings me to another saying we’ve all heard, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
What nights like Thursday night remind us, however: It’s also more inspiring.
Trevor Amicone is the sports director at 88.1 Weber FM "Ogden's Radio Station" and host of the sports talk radio show, "Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone". Find more of his blogs at TrevorsTopTens.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TrevorAmicone