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the thrill of victory

The Penguins lost last night, ending the season on a bit of a whimper and sending Montreal on further toward their 8 billionth Stanley Cup. We opted not to watch the game until the bitter end when the score flipped over to 5-2 in the middle of the third period. It was getting late and the baby needed to go to bed and I don’t deal well with the stress of games like that. While the practical side of my brain knows that it’s probably over, my black and gold heart still wants to believe in an unlikely miracle. Then I end up nauseated and palpitating, and who needs that on a school night?

As the baby was getting ready for bed, he said, “I can’t believe the Penguins aren’t going to win the Stanley Cup,” sounding genuinely offended. We reminded him that you can’t win them all. Then I realized that he’s a little spoiled. In nearly all of the years that he’s been aware enough to care, some Pittsburgh team was winning a championship or at least getting close enough to taste it. So, as far as he’s concerned, a year without a Super Bowl or Stanley Cup victory is just…wrong. I mean, it’s been almost a year since we last had to shield him from drunken hordes and angry police on Brookline Boulevard. This is no way to go into summer.

But now we have time to focus our sports energy into Little League. My son is not the most natural athlete, but we wanted him to play some sports for a few reasons.

1) Activity is a good thing.

2) It’s a concrete (and hopefully fun) way for him to learn about working hard and slowly improving at something, which we’ve been struggling with at school.

3) I didn’t play sports when I was a kid. I was doing ballet and I was way too shy. I kind of regret that now. So I want him to at least try a few out just for the experience. The husband gets together with friends every now and then for a casual game of basketball and it kind of bums me out that I can’t really do something like that. (Not that learning a sport now is just so impossible, but I would obviously have a lot of catching up to do and the muscle memory isn’t there and blah.)

Anyway, the baby hasn’t progressed in baseball like some of the other kids his age on his team. While they’re getting turns playing first base and whatnot, he’s still in the outfield. He gets bored out there and on the few occassions that a ball comes his way, he’s not reacting quickly enough to make a play. We explained to him that he needs to prove himself in the outfield before his coach will trust him enough to play infield.

Last Friday night, he finally got it. He played well enough in the outfield that the coach let him play second base. His team was also winning by a pretty wide margin, so I guess the coach figured that he couldn’t do too much harm.

He played pretty well, though most of the action was happening at first base.

But then, the last hitter came up to bat, swung, hit the ball, and sent it directly in the baby’s direction. His glove went up in the air, his eyes widened…and at that precise moment the dad who was acting as first base coach stepped right in the line of vision of the husband and me. Gah!

But I caught a glimpse of the baby catching the ball on the fly, pausing for a split second to marvel at the presence of the ball in his glove, then scurrying toward second base to tag out the boy heading for it.

And with that, his team won the game.

It was so exciting! Everyone jumped up and cheered and called out his name and afterward his coach declared him MVP.

I was so proud that he had tried hard enough to improve and could finally understand, at least a little, that wanting to do something isn’t enough. Adding hard work to desire will often lead to success. Not always, but often.

I hope that it’s one of the moments that he’s able to replay in his head, even when he’s an old man. I’ve already tucked it into my “Flash Before My Eyes on My Deathbed” file.

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