I wish to God I had posted this when I returned from my family trip to Disney on Sunday night. It would have been more profound had I done that, but I was just too overwhelmed with my reentry into my life in Jersey and also, I had no computer. But something happened to me on the plane ride home. After a fitful Saturday night sleep in which my wife and I were both plagued by baseball stress/anxiety dreams, we packed up, depressed as hell that we were leaving our magical family vacation and that our beloved Red Sox were in a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole to the dreaded Bronx Bombers. At the airport I was casually watching a football game on the monitor when my youngest asked me who was winning the baseball game. I told her, loud enough for anyone around me to hear, that it was a football and that I never wanted to watch another baseball game again, that I was done with baseball for a while. A fellow next to me nodded and said, “Red Sox fan huh. Me too.” We commiserated, as only fellow Red Sox fans can, and boarded the plane.
Then, while dozing, something overcame me. It started with a visual flash of a popular billboard near Fenway Park. A huge billboard with the words “Keep The Faith in the Red Sox font and a picture of Manny pointing in his two handed signature point. There’s another one nearby exactly the same with a picture of Pedro. Then came a conversation with God. Keep The Faith. Faith. What is faith worth if you didn’t have to battle the opposite? Despair. It’s easy to dive in when you know there’s a net to catch you, but to “Dive in” (an anagram of divine) not sure if there’s a net, is true faith. To believe when everything around you says not to, is faith. It’s a test of faith. All year the catch phrase for the Sox has been “Keep The Faith”. It was easy to believe this was the year when we got Schilling and Foulke. Not so easy to believe when we’re down 3-0 against the juggernaut that is the Yankees. How could we possibly win 4 straight against them? We can’t, I believed. It’s over. And then the billboard came in and I realized I had lost my faith.
Now all this may seem silly, even blasphemous, to some, to talk about faith in regards to a meaningless game. Our faith is often tested on much more profound playing fields in our lives. But talk to any serious Red Sox fan and realize how meaningful a World Series victory is to them. How deeply we feel the losses and victories and it becomes a perfect arena to test one’s faith for those more meaningful periods in our lives when a faith in Something is truly needed to get us through. So I decided, on that plane, to believe again.
The plane landed and the man who I had commiserated with was two rows behind me. My wife and youngest were one row behind me and I turned around and kneeled on my seat and looked in both of their eyes and I said, “We’re going to win the series. I know it.” They laughed and scoffed but I saw them believe too. I saw the glimmer of hope ignite inside them.
All through game 4 I talked to my buddy Brian on the phone and decided to do something that is completely uncharacteristic of me, I decided to believe, no matter what, that the Red Sox would win. His tone was filled with despair, mine was filled with hope. I was a nervous wreck, wracked with anxiety on the surface but deep down filled with a sense of peace and hope believing they would come through. I continually had to quiet myself and contact that reservoir of faith. I spoke out my faith time and time again and Lo and Behold, they won. Game 5 was no different except I felt on more occasions; I had become overwhelmed with doubt and despair. It was much more difficult for me to believe.
Today, I am filled with despair. It’s getting harder to believe they can continue this miraculous come back and my doubt and fear is pushing me to put up the barriers of cynicism in order to protect myself from what I believe to be the inevitable crushing defeat; as if these barriers would protect me from the pain of the loss. Better to believe and have faith and stay present throughout the experience and feel whatever there is to feel when it’s time to feel it.
Trust me, I am aware of how silly this may sound, but look at it as I do, as a metaphor of all the struggles in my life and the deep internal struggle I have with Cynicism versus Faith. It’s easy to be cynical, to not believe that glory is ours to revel in, that it’s for others. It’s more difficult to have Faith. Particularly if you’ve lived a life filled with the feeling that joy is for others, not for you. That’s the life I’ve lived and I’m battling, using this years ALCS to dive in to a life filled with faith, come what may!
Keep The Faith!