We pay to watch movies about David versus Goliath.
The Davids are reminders of our own obstacles, heartaches, and future glory.
They give us a sliver of hope that we, too, can reach the prize.
Bad News Bears
Miracle on Ice
All are movies about the unlikely overcoming the impossible.
Seabiscuit beat the heavily favored War Admiral at Pimlico in 1937. War Admiral won the Triple Crown the year before. He was twice the size, highly praised, and was unshakably confident. Seabiscuit wins by 4 lengths and becomes horse of the year.
If you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it.
Seabiscuit’s story is quite similar to my own.
I cry every time I watch it.
It rattles my inner bell.
There is another Seabiscuit-ish story I want to share.
Every summer, my son D’Angelo plays competitive baseball.
I help coach his team.
Every summer, we get smashed by the bigger, stronger, more populous cities.
This summer, we had 9 returning kids.
We worked on their attitude as much as on their aptitude for the first time.
“Live in the moment.”
“Mistakes are temporary. Forget about it.” “We need you for the next play.”
“Individuals don’t lose the game. Teams lose the game” and followed by
“Individuals don’t win the game. Teams win the game.”
“They underestimate us. We got them right where we want them.”
There were many more. I tried to be original, but I admit I stole a lot of the lines from the movies.
The average height of a 14-15 year old, according to healthline.com, is 67 inches.
We had three kids taller than that.
We were small and unintimidating.
Imagine the Monstars versus the Looney Tunes in SpaceJam. The best team in the province was the Monstars, and we were the laughable Tunes.
We never dominated anyone but found a way to win all of the close games.
Finishing with a record of 21 wins and 9 losses, we went to the provincials seeded in second place.
One of our best players opted out to play in the end-of-year tournament. He had provincial hockey tryouts.
Down a key ingredient, on paper, we were sure to lose.
In the movies, underdogs find a way to overcome those adversities.
The kids finished the round-robin tournament with 2 wins and 2 losses. Normally not a great result, but with a little divine intervention, we made the semi-finals based on runs against.
Our defense was the best in the tournament, allowing only 12 runs.
In the semis, we had to play our cross-town rivals, who had beaten us the day before.
We led the whole way and punched our path to the finals.
The Royals were waiting for us.
They had lost 3 games in 3 years.
They rolled through the tournament like kings, smashing all the lower-class citizens of our league.
Eight of their kids were named to play for the Provincial All-star team. We had two.
They were like the Monstars. With three kids over 6 feet tall, they were thick, strong, and fast.
Our tallest player was 5”10. Our smallest could fit in one of the Monstars’ pockets. And we had two other pocket fillers just like him.
In the warm-up, the Monstars were smiling, joking.
They were loose and cocky.
Their laughter insinuated there was no way they could lose.
In the fifth inning, they were winning 4 to 1.
We had our ace on the mound, and he was pounding them down like a sailor on a Friday night.
Evan walked. Kael got a base hit over third base. D’Angelo squeaked one out of the infield.
Bases loaded, two outs. Avery is up.
I could see the fear in Avery’s eyes as he stepped to the plate.
I reminded him to relax. Don’t hold the bat too tight.
If the tightness in his cheeks was an indication of his stress level, we were going to need a paramedic.
Strike one. Strike two. Ball. Ball two.
The Monstars coach calls timeout to speak to his pitcher.
“Avery, are you nervous?” as I approach him from the coach’s box.
“Yeah, a bit.”
“Ok, here’s what you need to do.” Avery was anticipating a magic hitting technique.
“Smile. You play better when you’re having fun. Don’t forget it’s just a game. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Avery gets back in the batter’s box and smashes a ball down the first baseline about 2 inches foul.
He watches the next one go by for Ball three.
Bases loaded, full count, two out.
At the start of the pitching motion, all runners take off.
Avery trickles the ball to the shortstop.
With so much action on the infield, the shortstop comes up tight and throws the ball away at first base.
Avery is safe, and all three runners score on the throwing error.
Avery’s tight cheeks are replaced by a grin that could touch his ears.
All the work in practice, all the games, all the time away from my wife and daughter was worth the smile on Avery’s face.
I heard one of the Monstars swear and kick his helmet after the inning was over.
He was rattled.
Their team was scared. They weren’t supposed to lose to us.
No one was smiling in their dugout.
We have them right where we want them, I told the boys.
I then said, “Winning wasn’t about the score. It was about the moment. Doing their best, and seeing what could happen”. I added, “Let’s break their hearts and send them home crying to their mommies.” They started laughing and cheering.
We battled for two more innings, swapping another run each.
5-5 and going into extra innings.
We got a guy on third with one out and couldn’t score him.
They did the same in the bottom of the eighth and walked us off the field.
We lost 5-6 in the provincial finals.
The kids were disappointed for about a minute until they realized what they had accomplished.
The unbeatable team had to play an extra inning to send us home.
The umpire stopped me on my way to the dugout and said, “There’s no quit in your team. I really enjoyed doing your games this weekend”.
We may have lost a baseball game to the Monstars, but we were the unbeatable team.
Although we went home with a silver medal, my heart was sprinkled with gold.
I thanked the boys for the magical experience. It is something I will never forget.
Before we gathered our bats and gloves, I told them I loved every one of them.
“I will follow you guys in your lives. You’re all special. Never forget it.”
Remembering “There’s no crying in baseball,” I cried a bit inside instead.
I coach baseball for the same reasons I work as an ad guy.
Business is built on teams, competitors, attitudes, authorities, and rules.
Success is not about the score.
Simple things like working together, smiling, having fun, not underestimating your competitor but not giving them too much credit either are lessons I learn every summer coaching these kids.
Those kids will soon be working.
I wonder if their bosses will talk to them like their baseball coach.
I hope they learned a bit about life on the way to improving in baseball.
I dream they understand the underdog doesn’t need to have the most points to be the winner.
There’s more untouched magic in the Seabiscuits than there is in the Monstars.
I’d bet on the little horse every time with the right conditions.