Lessons From A Championship

I had a full schedule on Monday, November 1, 2010. The day had flown by, full of lunch meetings, coffee chats and meetups.

I had followed the game on my mobile, listened to some of it on the radio, and by the time my day ended, it was the bottom of the ninth inning. It is game 5, the World Series, and my beloved San Francisco Giants are on the precipice of legend. Brian Wilson is dealing, the Texas Rangers are on their final 3 outs. I’m walking with my best friend at the corner of 4th and Townsend, in the SoMa district of San Francisco. The street is alive with anticipation; fans are spilling out of any open establishment with a television, creating an incredible hum of energy. Every pitch brings groans or roars of approval, depending on the pitch placement. We knew the Giants were going to win.

Edgar Renteria had been on the team’s disabled list with four different maladies during the regular season, and as a result had been the subject of withering criticism for not delivering this year. On the night of November 1, 2010, Edgar tapped into his prior championship experience DNA and delivered a three-run homer in the seventh. It was all the Giants were going to need this night.

We’re waiting at the street light, waiting to cross 4th street and slip into a nearby taqueria to witness history. I can hear the roars and groans of the assembled, and I’m a bit anxious. We can’t miss this. The light has been programmed to stay red 100 times longer than normal, I was sure of it. Heavy street traffic prevents us from jaywalking; I step forward a bit and Em pulls me back, protecting me.

Finally, a green light. We walk with purpose to the taqueria and sidle up to the packed crowd at the restaurant. No one is sitting. Everyone is on their feet, standing on chairs and tables, tucked into corners, all eyes on the huge HD monitor. We made it.

2 minutes later: the final pitch from Brian Wilson – swing and a miss. It’s over. The cheers ignite like an applause bomb – BOOM!

The street vibe voltage kicks up a few notches, the crowd in the restaurant is going berserk. Em and I, however, are oddly calm and silent, watching the monitor. We stand, her back to me; we watch the players climb out of the dugout and sprint to the pitcher’s mound, to envelop catcher Buster Posey and Wilson, piling on, jumping up and down.

A tear runs down my face. I like that we’re this oasis of quiet amongst the cacophony of riotous cheering that surrounds us. I just witnessed the greatest moment in San Francisco baseball history, I laugh a quiet laugh. Em doesn’t turn around.

We linger for a minute, to soak up all this happiness around us, then we take off, walking down the street quietly, throngs of screaming jersey-clad fans zip past us in an alcohol-fueled sprint. I assemble a season in 60 seconds, and the words start streaming out; the words are not elegant, the thoughts not stacked and sorted correctly.

Nobody believed in these guys. The national narrative was simplistic – these are vagrants, misfits and outcasts, these Giants. There is a shred of truth in the narrative. Outfielder Cody Ross had contemplated a career as a rodeo clown (!), wondering if his baseball future was bleak. First baseman Aubrey Huff took a 60% pay cut to play for the Giants this year, after every other team in the majors rejected him. Edgar Renteria was perceived as the underperforming has-been. There were mid-season calls to fire manager Bruce Bochy and to sack General Manager Brian Sabean. Neanderthals on sports talk radio pontificated and prattled and posited their genius, because they know it all and the team and its management know nothing. I had correctly predicted in the spring the Giants would win the division, and had correctly predicted the exact number of regular season wins. I took quiet pride in my estimation, but freely admit to having much difficulty believing they could close the door and take the trophy.

The 2010 San Francisco Giants taught me a lesson about reinvention, struggle and success.

If we choose to only fight the easy battles in our lives, no one would ever accomplish anything. As you make your ascent and seek the prize, few will believe in you. You will be judged, condemned and rejected. It would be so easy to listen to the detractors, buy into it and meet the low expectations. There are some among us, however, who are special. They turn a deaf ear to the chorus of negativity, and focus on the goal. How many brilliant entrepreneurs were laughed out of conference rooms and lunch tables for having the crazy notion their idea would change the world? Answer: ALL of them. The flat-earthers and play-it-safers choose the easy path, the safe route. They hide behind spreadsheets and the doors of their corner offices, afraid to step up, step out and believe in a dream.

That overpaid has-been Edgar Renteria? He was named MVP of the World Series.

The orphan Aubrey Huff? He led the team in home runs in 2010.

The potential rodeo clown Cody Ross? He spent most of September riding the bench. He was named MVP of the National League Championship Series, the lead up to the World Series.

Winning erases all of the doubt, all of the clatter and chatter. All is forgiven. I’m sure Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean would relish an afternoon at the ballpark where all the haters would line up and apologize for the savage criticism inflicted at them, but that’s not how life works. You take quiet confidence from achieving your goal. You savor your own success.

The road to success is a minefield of bombs and barbed wire and broken glass. Hell yes it’s tough. Choose your goal, find a small group of supporters to provide you the scaffolding to keep walking, to stay upright, and go.

The feeling of reaching the finish line is indescribable. I’m in the mood to hear a few dreams today. I’ll think about the possibility of success.

Write me, and tell me your dream. I’ll listen. I’ll take inspiration from you, and I’ll help you make it to the finish line.  My email is johnscottca<at>gmail.com.

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