Cheering for yourself

Enjoying a day off at the ballpark.

It was one of those rare days where I had the opportunity to be a fan. Don’t misunderstand me, as a sportswriter you still are a fan, just a different type of fan. You become a fan of the game rather than of a team, of players and coaches who are interesting to hold a conversation with rather than those with an edge who figure in the winning play. And you’re a big a fan of  games which end with due respect for your deadline. In short, you cheer for your story. And in life you don’t cheer for yourself, who will? But we’ll get to that a bit later.

First came Sunday afternoon with the rare combination of a warm, sunny afternoon, the day off and the nagging suspicion that if I stayed home I would be required to do something productive — like clean or pay bills. Instead I took my parents up on their offer to join them at the ballpark. Sounded good to me. With my long training run completed in the morning, I had no problem adding an ice-cold beer to my carbohydrate replenishment while sitting in right field occasionally cheering regarding the actual play on the field, not how it impacted what I was typing on my laptop.

Then again, it’s different to watch a team from the stands when you actually know them in some way. And as a sportswriter there are guys you like and guys you don’t and guys you could take or leave. And that list can change over the course of a season. (Heck sometimes over the coures of a game.) And while you’re cheering for your story, you also (if you have a soul) cheer for the good guys because (a) deep down you want there to be some sense of fairness in the universe and (b) you want your job to be easier.

Later Sunday night, I caught a tweet from Buffalo Bisons pitcher Collin McHugh. I followed him on Twitter when he was promoted to the Bisons because it was part of the job. I continue to follow him because he is freaking hilarious. A sample of his recent Tweets:

As a man, the hardest thing to do is lay down our pride…the second hardest is to pee standing up in a moving bus.

Pizza bites: I challenge any of you to make eating pizza easier… wait, what? Pizza isn’t hard to eat in the first place? Nevermind then.

I’m debating whether the wife and I are gonna go with iPhones or iPads…or eat for the next 2 years.

Collin McHugh

But along with Tweeting, he also writes a blog, “A Day Older, A Day Wiser,” which is an interesting look into the life of a young ballplayer making his way up the ranks of professional baseball. And the latest entry he posted was truly a little bit of awesomeness.

See, McHugh made his first Major League Baseball start recently pitching for the New York Mets at Citi Field. And even better yet, McHugh pitched an amazing game, but this opportunity was a spot start. McHugh was sent back to Buffalo, to the Triple-A level. And while a combination of disappointing and expected, McHugh was just fine with it. It’s part of the journey, one which, as he describes, has come with plenty of moments of self doubt and near disaster.

There have been too many times in my life where, if I was a betting man, I wouldn’t have bet on myself. But I just spent 3 of the best/craziest/most exhilarating days of my life pitching for the New York Mets. Which just goes to show you, betting against anyone in this game is the real gamble.

That being said, our trip from Buffalo to NYC to Buffalo is one met with excitement, not dread, pity or fear. We’ve learned that embracing the mystery of what’s ahead makes the present, whether good or bad, just another part of the journey – not the determining factor of where we’ll end up.

The easy way out is to give up on yourself. Which sounds like something you’d never do, right? But from own experience, I know how attractive that voice can be. The one which says to just forget it. The one which says it’s too hard. The one which says it’s not worth it. The one which channels your gremlins and fears in new and unique ways. But if you let go of the outcome, amazing things can happen. In the end, confidence is about cheering for yourself without assigning any meaning to the outcome.

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