I wrote this in my early 20’s after “retiring” from the game…
A “for fun” emphasis was preached to all participants as I laced up my cleats prior to a local Monday night softball league. I had signed up for a season under the lights, trying to reclaim some lost youth and to enjoy male bonding in one of its simplest forms. The image of fun and bonding unfortunately went right out the window early in the season. A critical groundball to the opposition’s shortstop that went through his legs caused some profanity and punches to be thrown between teammates. The sense of enjoyment within the game completely died when I was practically forced at gunpoint to get on base to keep a late inning rally alive. My judgment of pitches helped me draw a walk in this situation as the contest was eventually won by my team (which, in the grand scheme of things, sucked anyway). I got the message loud and clear: I was only a temporary hero until the next time I failed in the critical situation. Boy do people forget your successes in a hurry, or at least only remember them when it’s convenient!
At that point in my storied softball career I felt I was even on the imaginary success/failure chart. It was my judgment that helped us to victory, but also a severe fielding blunder that led to a loss in another game. The loss taught me to appreciate and savor victory as it can guide and comfort us in times of failure. Any search for unattainable perfection is clearly a waste of time in our very human imperfect lives. We may be in complete financial ruin, the kids may be failing in school, and a loved one may have recently passed away; yet we still set ourselves up for more failures by stomping our feet and demanding success. How dare these setbacks be put in our way?!!! Yet it’s a proven fact that at one time or another everyone will fail at something or lose a loved one. I believe the key in these situations that true success can be measured by how we rise above the nature of the failure or loss.
Look around to some of the greatest success stories in the world, or even within your own life circle. Some of the most inspirational moments came from moments of despair and heartbreak. If a lesson can be learned in these moments (and it’s rare to not find a lesson) you can grow and move on. Personally I prefer the pressure of dealing with and growing through loss rather than the pressure of reaching for perfection that doesn’t exist in human form.
My thoughts and visit to a softball diamond in the past to make a point aren’t without scrutiny. I only lasted in the game about two years and quit, weary of the pursuit of perfection. Looking back I wish I had stood up for the fact that I was a poor hitter that simply loved the game. It was explained to me, after all, that this league was “for fun.” The realization of what I had actually learned in the league that would translate well to other areas in my life didn’t materialize until years later. Lesson learned. Perhaps I won one more game out there than I originally thought.