...not that we ever needed it.
I posted this on my league's message board a couple of days ago and received some positive feedback and encouragement to post elsewhere. Please enjoy (now edited for mild profanity):
I was walking on Manhattan Beach the other day, watching the surfers, thinking about how nice it was to be in the sunshine in early March…generally very pleased with myself. I saw some girls playing volleyball. They were fit. Pleasant. It was about 3 in the afternoon, and about seventy-five degrees out. Agreeable weather even by L.A. standards for the time of year. The locals were out in droves, smiles slapped on their smug little faces. I saw some kids sitting in a circle passing a joint…just like a scene in any one of those many films that glorify that one-and-only Summer of Love, which you’ve all seen before. It felt like another era. Cliché, almost. I continued down the beach for a little while, or for at least as long as I could until I got that feeling you get when you know you you’ve been walking for too long and you’re running out of time because even if you turn around right then - at that very moment - you’ll be walking back at least as far as you have already. It’s like there is a rubber band. One end attached to point A, and the other pinned between your shoulder blades. It’s an awful feeling, in a way. Neither option is truly ideal. If you keep walking, and let the rubber band snap, it will hurt. The initial complications of leaving it all behind will be painful. You’d have some explaining to do, and your loved ones wouldn’t understand. But if you make the about-face and return, ultimately, to that from which you’re feeling so free, you get a sense that you’re caving…like you’re cheating yourself. That the rubber band and all that's at the other end has won. The very real human spirit inside you that loves freedom knows that the beach is the only true option, but you can’t make yourself do it…you can’t stay. You’re not conditioned to. You only know this life, this lie, and you return to what you know, right or wrong.
Many books have been written about why we do this, why we all shun on a daily basis that which we so basically desire and is so absurdly attainable, and still do not pursue, and all that I can gather from the handful that I’ve read is that nobody knows. But I digress…
The rubber band was growing tighter, and I had a plane to catch. But at that moment a strange thing happened. The rubber band snapped. Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t the strange part. People’s rubber bands snap all of the time. My brother’s rubber band, for instance, snapped about a year ago, and he’s been on the road ever since. Riding rails, and thumbing rides. (He smells awful but is very, very happy, by the way) What was strange was that when my rubber band snapped, I chose not to keep going. I just stood there for a minute. Clarity rushed all around me. I could see the past, present and future at once, and it all appeared to me as the same moment. The stresses of life lifted. Literally. I was standing taller, breathing deeper. I could hear Hawaiian music. The two clouds that were in the sky parted, and angels descended, singing, jamming with the Hawaiian music. It rocked. Hard. One angel stepped forth and spoke to me.
“Yes?”, I asked.
“What do you want from life?”
“I want to win fantasy baseball” I said.
“Then it shall be” spoke the angel.
“Really, angel?” I asked, “It’s that easy?”
“It is your destiny.”
And with that, the angel stepped back, and with all the grace of a Japanese center fielder, ascended to the heavens.
Now, this isn’t the first time that I’ve thought about sports and spirituality in the same context. There are those that say that sports don’t matter. That the only real issues in life to which we owe any of our attention and energy are those “bigger issues” that affect “real people”. These same people would contend that we are selfish and foolish for committing so much time to an endeavor that simply cannot be understood by the outsider. I’m here to say that sports do matter. They matter in a very spiritual way. Have you ever been in the zone? Doing anything at all? Cooking? Cleaning? Gardening? Shutting out your opponent in foosball or throwing a no-hitter? There is a reason that Buddhist Monks chant, and that Zen Gardeners rake their sand. They are using rhythm. I’ll repeat it. They are using rhythm…rhythm as a tool to help them focus. And what are they trying to focus on, or what is the end, I should ask, that is being pursued? A state of higher consciousness. Connectedness. Oneness. A feeling that you and the entire universe are sharing something special. The most special thing. Is it that difficult to believe that this can be achieved through sports? Not for me. How many times have you heard Joe Buck say, when a pitcher is throwing a gem, something like “he’s really in a rhythm now”? Many times, I’m sure. If not, pay attention, you will. Whether that pitcher realizes it or not, throwing a good game, for him, is not very different than a Catholic counting rosary beads, or a Rastafarian bobbing his head to the beat of reggae music. Rhythm is the key. It is simply a tool that will help you unlock the higher mind. And the good found in a moment like a pitcher throwing a no-hitter is not wasted on that pitcher alone. That can be shared…no, it longs to be shared. Do not try to tell me that you’ve never once witnessed a great moment in sports and gotten the chills. That is nothing more than the high quality of that moment being so high, that you’re able to feel it through your television screen. Connectedness, folks. It might sound a little hokey, or a little new-agey to you, but it’s real. I believe that true connectedness can be felt through sports as a means. We’ve all lived it…and that’s what it’s all about. In a sense, us playing fantasy baseball is a holy act, and the diamond (or the gridiron, the hardwood or the pitch) is our church. Sports really do matter. But again, I digress…
After the dust settled, and a concerned surfer shook me by the shoulders to make sure I was ok - I must have been standing there staring at the sky for a while – I picked my self up and strolled effortlessly back to the car. No rubber band pulling on me… just going, man, just going. I’ve found myself now back at my desk at my office in downtown Portland. It wasn’t a very different day than most which I’ve had in recent history. A lot of the same b.s. that I’ve contended with for months upon months now, but the difference is today that the b.s. didn’t feel like b.s.
I've got a big welt on my back, but I feel great.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some studying to do. I’ve got a draft coming up in a couple of weeks, and if that angel has anything to say about it, you are all dead meat.