In Baseball’s Biggest Ninth-Inning Comebacks, published in the Wall Street Journal in 2008, author Carl Bialik answers one baseball fan’s burning question: What is the largest deficit a team has come back from in the bottom of the ninth inning to win a ball game? Bialik confirms that “On April 24, 1901, in their first American League game, the Detroit Tigers scored 10 runs in the ninth inning to beat Milwaukee, 14-13.” This 113 year record stands to this day. The author continues, “According to a win expectancy calculator devised by Chris Shea from 30 years of box scores starting in 1977, fewer than 0.1% of the time do teams trailing by at least seven runs in the bottom of the ninth go on to win.”
I am no stranger to leaving sporting events prematurely. In fact, the abovementioned study justifies my father’s insistence that we depart early from a Boston Red Socks baseball game at Fenway Park during a family vacation in the mid-90’s. I forget the exact details, but The Sox were down four in the seventh inning. My father, who knows to this day that I have yet to let this go, quickly ushered my mom, sister and me out of the stadium to quote “beat the traffic”. Who can blame him? The game, for all intents and purposes, was over. As we were walking along-side The Green Monster, now outside of the baseball park, we suddenly heard a crowd of 37,000 people, at least those who stayed in their seats, erupt. To what you ask? To a grand-slam tying at bat in the bottom of the ninth inning! My dad asked a local what had just happened. The man pulled out an ear bud from his Walkman radio and stated, “The Cardiac Kids are doing it again … grand-slam!” The look on my face must have killed my father. I had insisted that we stay in our seats because you never know what is going to happen. It got worse. The fans, they erupted again. A walk-off solo home run cemented a win for the Boston Red Socks and solidified a principle for my father and me to this day: to never leave a sporting event prematurely. In other words, not to presume to know the outcome of an event which is still in progress.
The intention of this post is not to take a public shot at my father. In fact, as the study shows, he was certainly justified leaving early that evening in Boston. Rather, this is to promote the principle to never presume to know an outcome of an event which is still in progress. This principle is far easier to apply in sport than it is in most of life. Sporting events have a solid beginning and end (e.g. the clock runs out). Yet, what about applying this principle to our daily lives? Leap logically with me and agree that our inner soul, the deepest part of the Self, is in a constant state of joy. We may experience moments of happiness or sadness; however, along the arc of our life’s work, we are, deep down inside, joyful beings. We are careful not to elevate a particular experience (positive or negative) to the level of ultimate reality. In other words, we manage to hold onto some perspective until the event itself passes. Subsequently, it is important for us to reconsider how we define our life’s events and life itself. For those in a learning mode, life (and each event) is never really over. And, even that, the end of life, is debatable.
Everything moves forward or backward, nothing is without motion…. All material things progress to a certain point, then begin to decline. This is the law which governs the whole physical creation…. We have seen that movement is essential to existence; nothing that has life is without motion. All creation … is compelled to obey the law of motion; it must either ascend or descend. But with the human soul, there is no decline. Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul…. In the world of spirit there is no retrogression…. In the realm of spirit there is no retreat possible, all movement is bound to be towards a perfect state. ‘Progress’ is the expression of spirit in the world of matter.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks
Briefly, the world of existence is progressive. It is subject to development and growth. … the world of existence is continuously progressing and developing…
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
Let us consider the findings of one of the largest longitudinal studies of our time, The Grant Study. The study began in 1938 with over 200 men with the expressed intent to “determine what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing.” George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than 30 years, offers a few key takeaways in his book Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study (2012).
I just love the fact that all kinds of things we think matter don’t matter. Money and social class being at the top of the list…I was delighted to find that it is good health that makes it possible to exercise at 60, it is not the exercising at 60 that creates good health at 80…. The ones [participants of the study] who had come from very warm childhoods and spent their life knowing how to take people in … you do that as one man said ‘not worrying about myself but more about the children’.
The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points … to a straightforward five-word conclusion: ‘Happiness is love. Full stop.’
The point is this: the next time you are having an off day or thinking to yourself life has never been better, struggling with a particular personality or seeing passed the weaknesses of others, or not pulling in the largest pay check or landing your golden parachute, remember The Red Socks, Fenway Park and the grand-slam. If we can each cultivate a deeper and wider perspective on life, if we can hold on to the hope that what we are experiencing is temporary, that deep down inside we are joyful beings meant to love one another, the meaning of the event itself may be unveiled to us at the beginning. That is, that what we are doing here on this planet is never finished. We are always growing. And, that although the statistics many not bear out to our liking, we can chose not to presume to know the outcome of an event, the greatest of which is our life, until it is finally over. After all, we now know that happiness is love, and loving, ourselves and others, takes a certain perspective and a deep desire to grow.
Thank you for the life lessons at Fenway dad!