As the heat rose outside to 102° last weekend, I chilled in front of my television, cheering on my home teams: The Dodgers, Angels, Trojans and Bruins (Los Angeles, Anaheim, USC and UCLA, respectively). I am still in shock as I write. “There is no joy in Mudville. [All my teams] struck out.”
Nevertheless, the don’t-ever-give-up attitude of the Cardinals, Royals, Razorbacks and Utes (St. Louis, Kansas City, Arizona State, and University of Utah) inspires me. Each was expected to lose. Three fought back from significant deficits. The fourth – Kansas City – was a dark horse. None of them lost heart. They played hard until the end of the game.
Here are the basics:
- The Dodgers were ahead, 6 – 2 at the beginning of the seventh inning and had the country’s best pitcher on the mound. St. Louis scored eight runs in the seventh, including a three-run homer. St. Louis won, 10 – 9.
- The Angels, with the best record in baseball, were playing Kansas City for the division title. The Royals had not played in the post-season for 29 years and were the odds-on favorite to lose. Instead, they won the first two games and did so with home runs in the ninth innings.
- In college football, USC expected an easy win over Arizona. They were so far ahead that, at one point, I felt sorry for the Razorbacks. When Arizona scored three touchdowns in the last four minutes, my sympathy evaporated. Arizona won with a jaw-dropping 46-yard Hail Mary pass to the goal line in the final second of the game.
- In my final blow of the weekend, UCLA lost to Utah Saturday night. UCLA was down at the half (7 -17) but rallied for what eventually looked like a certain victory. The Utes refused to give up. In the last minutes, they scored again. UCLA missed a field goal with 34 seconds remaining and Utah won, 30 – 28.
After winning Game One of the series, Eric Hosmer of the Kansas City Royals, said, “It’s fun to be the underdog — you don’t have anything to lose.”
I wish I had known that as a child. I grew up with two older brothers against whom I don’t believe I ever won a game of Monopoly, Risk, or Ping-Pong. I didn’t have a chance against razor-sharp brothers who were four and eight years older than I. But I was gullible or delusional, because I kept agreeing to play. About halfway through each game, I usually gave up and resigned myself to losing.
Years later, I still hear those tapes in my head telling me to pack it in. I know what it is like to be in the shoes of those who look at the scoreboard and see a chasm. It takes guts, resilience, and a devil-may-care attitude to persevere and play hard to the end.
Sure, my teams suffered what were for us, heart-breaking losses. But by the fourth time I watched a team battle against the odds and win, I was not only depressed. I was inspired.
Yadier Molina, the Cardinals’ catcher, said, “When we [were] down 6 – 1, it seemed improbable. What else can you do? Just keep fighting . . . . We really had no other choice.”
Yes they did. Many people choose to give up. The Cardinals made a choice and chose to keep fighting. My take-away for the sports weekend: Play hard with all your heart until the last whistle blows.