Coast Mountain News
If you're reading this article at NVTBL you are likely a baseball fan from the Washington, DC area. So, it follows that you are aware that our Washington Nationals won the World Series a mere three weeks ago. Furthermore, if you're like me, you have not stopped thinking about it for a single day since. I'm not sure when I will tire of the tweets and articles and celebration photos of the Nats' very first championship.
As usual, I discover a lot of life lessons through following sports at all levels - from youth and high school teams to college and professional. These definitely come in handy as I raise my three boys who have played and/or watched all manner of sports since the time they were four or five years old.
The Washington Nationals' historic win was no exception and offered me a plethora of examples of how sports can teach us lessons useful far beyond the ballpark. As we watched the series go all the way to seven games, I couldn't help but point out to my people all of the wisdom we could extract from our hometown heroes.
Here are just a few themes I've brought up at the dinner table and in text conversations over the past few weeks.
(And if you're wondering, the answer is "Yes." Yes, it makes the boys tired. So be it. Mama will not be deterred.)
Lesson 1: You do not need a superstar. You need a team.
Obviously, the elephant (not) in the room for the entire series was Bryce Harper. For the record, I was and still am a Bryce Harper fan. As a volunteer in the Pediatric Cancer community for a number of years in the DC area, I personally saw how generous Harper was to children and their families stricken with cancer. He was gracious and kind and I will always be a fan of the man he showed himself to be. Plus, he was a heckuva ball player and a ton of fun to watch. Period. The end.
Having said that, it certainly was a curious thing to notice how much the success of the team changed once a player who was the subject of such enormous attention was absent. I would contend that the focus on Harper was not of his choosing or even his desire, but nevertheless that attention was bright and it was big. Obviously, I wasn't in the dugout or the locker room this season, but you didn't have to be to notice that the team chemistry was off the charts. Would it have been the same had Harper been there this year? Maybe. Maybe not. Nobody really knows the answer to that.
The fact remains that some of the most successful teams I have seen over the years from youth to professional did not have to rely on one player to carry them through the season. It's great to have a standout star. Players who are performing at the top of their game and well above their peers are fascinating to watch. But I'll take a team where there is no clear MVP on the roster any day of the week and twice on Sundays. It takes a whole lot more than one guy to go the distance and the Nats proved it.
Lesson 2: Don't listen to folks who tell you, "You're too . . . (fill in the blank)."
Wall Street Journal
This is a lesson for everyone at any age, in any endeavor, and in any area of life. Certainly, it is prudent to pay attention to realities, but I loved how the Nationals kicked some reality in the teeth this season.
The Washington Nationals were the oldest team on average in the league. Apparently, they even took to referring to their veterans as the "Viejos" which means "old men" in Spanish. Ryan Zimmerman, Kurt Suzuki, Matt Scherzer, and Howie Kendrick are all thirty-five years old or older. Respect your elders. gentlemen. If you don't they might hit a homer off of you.
I give you Juan Soto who hit three home runs in the World Series and got on base in all seven games. He was not even legally able to buy a beer until he turned 21 during the third game of the series. Many thought the stage would be too big for him. That thought didn't pan out too well. Let the rookie play.
I digress from our beloved Nationals here to give a shout out to Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. You have to be missing a heartbeat to not be impressed by him. Altuve is 5 foot 6 and it's a joy to watch him play. It's not the size of the dog in the fight, kids, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Lesson 3: Just keep playing.
Those of us who endured the long delay after the umpires called Trea Turner out at first base in Game 6 might have been spittin' angry. In fact, there might have been a very mature and calm baseball mom who writes quite a bit about parenting and Jesus who was ready to put a baseball bat through the tv.
You can only control what you can control and that appears to be what Anthony Rendon was thinking. Perhaps the most mild mannered of any player on the team, he didn't shout, didn't fight, and didn't complain. After all that drama during the review, he simply put himself in the batter's box and hit a home run. Rendon was practically stone-faced as he rounded the bases and barely slipped into a grin as he casually high-fived his teammates at home plate. Don't get mad, guys. Get even.
Lesson 4: Be gracious in victory and in defeat.
Perhaps this happens every World Series, but this was the first time I noticed that fans from both teams took out ads in the newspapers praising the other's city and fans. Fans from Houston took out an ad in The Washington Post thanking them for being "friendly, welcoming, and engaging". As well, some Nats fans took out an ad complimenting Houston on being "generous, kind, and positive." Mind your manners, boys and girls. It's worth it.
Lesson 5: When in doubt, hug it out.
Again, you just cannot put a price on team chemistry and the Nationals had loads of it. When someone was down, another teammate picked him up. When someone was up, they celebrated the heck out of him. The guys genuinely seemed to like each other. They lifted each other up and held onto each other throughout a series where they had three devastating losses at home in a row. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
Lesson 6: If you're not having fun playing baseball, you're not doing it right.
I dare you to find a team that was having more fun that the Washington Nationals. The crowd sings Baby Shark while the guys make a shark hand gesture when they are safe on base. Kendrick and Eaton had a highly choreographed celebration move which was ridiculous and about the best thing I've ever seen. The dugout turned into a conga line dance every time someone came in from scoring. Sean Doolittle carried a light saber around for no apparent reason during most of the post-game celebrations. As Hall of Famer Willie Stargell once said, "When you start the game they don't say, 'Work Ball'. They say, 'Play ball."
Lesson 7: NEVER EVER EVER QUIT.
Detroit Free Press
How many times did we see the Nationals come out of what seemed an impossible situation? The lesson, as it is in so many sports, is to never give up. Not when you've been on the team for 15 years and never made it to the World Series. Not when there's a bat-crap crazy call at 1st base that threatens to turn the entire game around. Not when Rendon is on deck. Not when you're a pitcher that can barely lift your arms above your head only 72 hours before you pitch lights out in Game 7. Not when you're told you're too old and your time has passed. Not when you're told you're too young to handle the pressure. And certainly not when you've lost three games in a row. It ain't over 'til it's over.
So here's to the Washington Nationals who have given a random baseball-loving mom in the suburbs a whole bunch of material to use to lecture her children at the dinner table for months to come.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for teaching us so much this season, Champs. We will never forget your historic season and all the lessons we learned from you.