Confidence Man

In honor of the World Series, which begins tonight, some thoughts from the enigmatic Barry Zito:

Zito said something very interesting about confidence after the Giants won the pennant that helps explain what is going on here. Zito talked about how when you are young you get by with “unconscious confidence” — you have succeeded so often with the sharp skills of youth that you don’t even think about not succeeding. “When you’re going good, you don’t even know why,” he said. But when failure comes, it arrives with its companion: doubt.

“You go through a phase, and if you can get through it,” Zito said, “you come out it in a different place, where now the confidence is something that’s conscious, that’s earned. It’s the confidence to know why you’re good.”

Identity, Work, Time, Seminary, Lost Things, and Baseball

Check these excellent articles out:

  1. The Pew Research center recently published some interesting findings on “Hispanics and Their Views of Identity” (interesting period, but also given the nature of out neighborhood and family)
  2. Seth Godin with more wisdom…this week it’s about protecting and defending your time so you can do the things that are important (and I would add life-giving)
  3. Scot McKnight (who recently made the jump from North Park University, teaching undergrads, to Northern Seminary, teaching grads) gives us 10 Reasons to Attend Seminary
  4. My friend Ryan on “the things we find”…God has a habit of finding things that are lost!
  5. A baseball article. I love Joey Votto. Watch him hit if you get the chance. Plus some of the stuff in this article is so amazing I don’t even believe it.

Don’t Be Complicit

Here are a couple of intertwining thoughts from two different books I’ve been reading. In Safe People (by Cloud and Townsend) the authors write: “An important question to ask (when discerning if a person is safe or unsafe) is: what does this person do with my no?” 

Saying yes and no (being truthful), and how people respond to that, is a theme that keeps showing up in a number of places.

In The Bottom of the 33rd, Joe Morgan (no not that Joe Morgan) is the manager of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. As a AAA (closest minor league level to the major leagues) manager Morgan saw a lot of guys who went on to play in bigs, but he also saw a lot of guys who were good but not quite good enough.

These not quite good enough players would hang around and hang around hoping against hope for their break. At some point they would come to Joe and ask: “What do you think, skip? Am I going to make it?”

And Joe Morgan was honest with them. He told them the truth. Sometimes that was a really hard, even brutal, assignment. But, and here’s our quote of the week:

Morgan never wanted to be complicit in another man’s delusions. He felt morally required to provide either encouragement or release. To say yes or no.”

He wasn’t a jerk about it. He didn’t take delight in crushing a man’s dreams. But he didn’t lie to them either. This is a hard lesson of leadership, but, as I am learning, it is important to tell the truth.

We Don’t Do That Here

On a friend’s suggestion I picked up Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game and I have not been able to put it down. The book tells the story (and the back story) of the longest game in professional baseball history. The game took place in 1981 between the AAA level minor league teams for the Red Sox and the Orioles in Pawtucket, RI (about 40 min south of Boston).

The book is full of a number of incredible anecdotes, and anyone who loves baseball or who has lived in New England should read it!

One of the best scenes centers around, arguably, the most famous player to participate in the game: Cal Ripken Jr. Ripken was a bit of a hot head in his younger days, a star in the making who needed to be put in his place. Here’s how it went down:

“Ripken’s white-hot desire to win, always, leaves little allowance for the inevitability of failure. He is quick to lose his temper–usually, but not always, with himself. A couple of years from now, after Ripken will have emerged as an up-and-coming major-league star, a veteran teammate, Ken Singleton, will show him a videotape of yet another Ripken fit; something thrown, something slammed. Embarrassed, Ripken will work hard from then on to contain his temper, to be a model of retrained passion, the message imparted by Singleton finding hold somewhere deep in his temporal lobe: ‘We don’t do that here.’

Baseball Wisdom

I am a huge baseball fan and I love stories like Phillip Humber’s. I also loved this article by Tom Verducci about Humber. In it he talks a little bit about the art of coaching pitchers at the major league level. He says that every pitching coach has access to the same kind of knowledge…there’s no magic that one coach has that none of the others have. What makes the difference then is this:

“It’s the coach who gets the player when he’s ready to learn who will wind up getting credit for that player’s success.”

An ode to the 49ers

Last Saturday, when Beth was here, we headed out with some friends to McGreevy’s to watch the 49ers take on the Saints. I have become a full on 49er cynic over the past decade, so I had no hopes of a victory…just wishing for a good game. My non-expert opinion about the 49ers on January 14th was that they were a nice story with some good players, a great defense, a coach who was leading them in the right direction, but a likely inflated 13-3 record. No way they beat a “real” team with a “real” quarterback like the Saints and Drew Brees.

But they won and they won in epic fashion and suddenly I was swept into full on nostalgia mode.

Here’s the deal: I love baseball. If I could only take one professional sport with me to a deserted island I would take baseball. But the thing I’ve realized with the 49ers here recently is how deeply the niners (and football) are ingrained in my sporting memory. I don’t know that I enjoy sports as much as I do today without the 49ers.

The first sporting event that I really remember in great detail is the 49ers-Bengals super bowl with “the drive” (49ers won 20-16 on a last second Montana to Taylor touchdown pass). I literally remember almost everything about that game.

I also remember in great detail the next season (89/90), when the Niners dominated professional football and capped the year off with a 55-10 pounding of the Broncos in the Super Bowl.

And I remember the next season as well (90/91)…I remember going to the Monday night game that pitted the 10-1 49ers vs. the 10-1 NY Giants. I remember being freezing cold and the Niners winning a brutal 7-3 slugfest. That game was huge because it gave the 49ers the inside track to home field advantage for the playoffs.

And I remember the rematch in the NFC Championship game when the Giants won 15-13 on five field goals. In 8 quarters the Giants never scored a touchdown against the 49ers that season. I remember watching that last second field goal go through the uprights and thinking it was a mistake. In my 10-year-old world, the 49ers DID NOT lose. It couldn’t be real.

That game was the first time I had ever felt utterly devastated after a loss. I was too young to remember the SF Giants meltdown against the Cardinals in 1987 NLCS. And while losing the 1989 World Series to the A’s was a bummer, that whole experience was defined by the Loma-Prieta earthquake. Even as a nine-year old I knew bigger and more important things were going on. Plus the 49ers were well on their way to winning another Super Bowl.

That 1990 team, the team that certainly could have/should have become the only team to win 3 straight super bowls, was my first genuine sports heartbreak. It prepared me thoroughly for what the Giants would do to me over the next 20 years. And it tought me to cherish championships because they do not come every year, even though it felt that way as 10-year-old 49er fan.

Furthermore, the Niners were a family tradition. My grandfather loved them , my dad loved them, his brothers loved them. Stories were told of trecks to old Kezar Stadium. We watched plenty of games at my grandparents house back in the day. Those are some of my most vivid extended family memories.

The 49ers played on Sunday and we had a lot to do on Sunday as a pastor’s family, so there was something beautiful about listening to the first couple of drives on the radio on the way home from church and then the fam crashing in the family room around the TV to cheer on the team that would win almost every week.

So, watching Alex Smith lead the team to a last-minute victory, watching Candlestick Park explode with euphoria…those images unlocked some deep memories and powerful waves of nostalgia.

But here’s the other thing I’ve learned. I’m a baseball guy. I’m bummed the Niners lost on Sunday and won’t be going for their 6th Super Bowl in my life time. I’m kind of relieved though…I live in Boston. I’d have to hear about this thing from the Patriots perspective for two weeks. That might have been unbearable.

Nothing feels as bad as when the Giants lose in the playoffs…when the baseball season is over. And nothing in my sports watching life has been as satisfying as when the Giants won the World Series.

Love the Niners, yeah, but man, I really love baseball!