Keep the Faith (This is David, not Sheila)

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 year’s ALCS to dive in to a life filled with faith, come what may!

Keep The Faith!

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17 Responses to Keep the Faith (This is David, not Sheila)

  1. Fee says:

    Hello David:

    I met you a while back at a birthday party for Sheila.

    Quickly, I’m not religious, nor am I a Red Sox fan (though I do sooooo want them to beat the Yankees…I cannot tolerate obnoxious Yankee fans), but what you write here about Fatih is very real. It’s a constant struggle to believe when everything seems to be indicating otherwise. However, I think it’s necessary to constantly step back and examine what you believe in, be it in the existence of God, the strength of unconditional love, the ability of your favorite team to pull through and win. How boring it would be to know that everything will work out the way you want it to. Where is the challenge in that. It leads to a certain kind of dumb arrogance (hence the loathed Yankee fan who has not learned the beauty of humility).

    Faith means that you won’t lose that need to believe in the possibility that things will work out. To give up on that means you become cynical and embittered. The challenge is to keep that belief alive in yourself in spite of the disappointments that come with being a devoted fan.

    Even if the Red Sox lose, it doesn’t mean you give up on the belief that one day they will pull it out and win. The definition of a true fan is one who keeps believing, regardless. Anyone who professes devotion, but secretly harbors doubts, is a pretender. Even Christ, Buddha, Mohammed all doubted the sensibility of their faith — and all were quite vocal about it, constantly questioning themselves, their beliefs, but they persevered. Sooner or later you will see it through. The question is, are you happier when you give up believing in your team, your God, whatever? I don’t think so.

    Blind faith is a fool’s faith because it shows a willingness to believe simply because you have been taught to. We all have a complex relationship with our Faith, it’s supposed to be that way. So you struggle, you question, you doubt, it just shows a real commitment to understand your need for something, anything to believe in.

    If my memory serves me correctly you’re an actor. Imagine how difficult it would be to pursure your passion if you didn’t have faith in yourself and your commitment to that passion.

    That’s my two cents. Thanks for such a thoughtful post on such a rainy day. I don’t like rainy days, but I know that even after a week of rainy days at some point, the sun will shine again. Maybe that’s not faith but fact, however, it requires the same kind of positive belief.

  2. red says:

    David – member that Sports Guy column I sent you? The memories of last October, etc., coloring our experience of this October? I find it to be very real.

    It’s a metaphor for other experiences in life, obviously. You get hurt really badly – just once – and it colors your experience of other things all the rest of your days. The struggle (for me, anyway) is to acknowledge that this is true (as in: Wow. That experience has MARKED me. I can’t erase it away.) — but to NOT get cynical, and bitter and over it.

    I struggle with that every freakin’ day of my life.

    It was great to be back in Chicago … and to realize, right up front, that yes: being hurt those many years ago by what’s-his-name has, indeed, marked me for life. And yet … Chicago is still beautiful, fun, the same place I remember … The entire landscape doesn’t have to be colored by that one incident.

    I know you know what I’m talking about.

    On another note: Sadly, my cousin Mike had tickets for me in Boston last night – but I just couldn’t swing it, since I returned to NYC on Sunday evening. GOLDURNIT. Talk about regrets! wish I had been there.

  3. red says:

    A quote from Somerset Maugham, which I think can apply – or, at least, it articulates the struggle:

    It is not true that suffering ennobles the character; happiness does that sometimes, but suffering for the most part makes men petty and vindictive.

  4. Dan says:

    Wow. I’d walk, no RUN from Chicago for a shot at post-season tickets.

    Nice essay David. It’s been a an up-and-down three days hasn’t it?

  5. red says:

    It’s been NUTS. David Ortiz, man … Or as my sister Jean calls him: “Big Papa”.

  6. red says:

    I know – I wish I could have swung it, Dan. But I’m broke and I would have had to take 2 more days off work to get my ass up to Fenway. No can do.

    grrrrrrrr

  7. Dan says:

    Work is constantly getting in the way of my baseball habit as well.

  8. red says:

    hahahaha

    I know – I resent it. I want to be rich enough to take October off every year. (Just in case, you understand …)

  9. Dan says:

    That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

    Well if the Sox somehow manage the impossible and make it to the WS, I hope you plan on returning to New England for at least one game.

  10. red says:

    Well, as you surmised, Cousin Mike’s got connections. :)

  11. Dan says:

    True, true, but I was actually thinking about the necessity and comfort of simply being ‘home’ in a situation like that. I’ve already exacted promises from the Bunny i.e. those games, should they occur (knock on wood) must be watched here.

  12. red says:

    Oh, totally! I’ve been living in enemy territory for way too long!

  13. Steve says:

    I haven’t been much of a Sox fan over the years. But the past few games have been AWESOME. Die Yankees die. I mean, “score less.”

  14. Popskull says:

    Keep the faith, David, even when the Yanks finish ’em off.

  15. Easycure says:

    The Yankees are vampire-like….can’t somebody put a stake into their hearts? I just want them to go away…..go away.

  16. Dave J says:

    It’s been such a rollercoaster so far: each game, each inning, each at-bat, each pitch, on and on seemingly without end. So do I believe the Sox will make history and come from behind from three down, even though no ever has before? I don’t know if I honestly EXPECT that to happen, but I believe it can. I know it’s possible. I know it’s more than just statistically possible in the sense that so is winning the lottery, but actualy plausible rather than (completely) crazy, not outside the bounds of rational speculation. I mean, they’ve made it halfway there already.

    So yeah, I do believe. I have every year since I can remember thinking about such things at all. If you can somehow manage to get ahold of World Series tickets at Fenway, Sheila, please let me know. ;-)

  17. red says:

    What about Damon’s at-bat last week which literally went on forever? I think it was 17 pitches or something like that? It was something else … He was not going to go down without getting a piece of that ball, and so pitch after pitch after pitch after pitch … It was amazing.

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