Rock Doubt

Well, at least we’re not Oakland. 

Small consolation at the best of times, I know. But it’s all I’ve got left to offer. 

If you’re a fellow Colorado Rockies fan, you get it. And if you’re a fellow Colorado Rockies fan, I am so, so sorry. 

One. Hundred. Losses. 

And beyond, naturally. The count stood at 102 when I wrote this and may have added one or two more by the time our final out of the year was recorded on Sunday. But as usual, it’s the big round number that stands out, the mark of infamy that no Rockies team had ever before reached. 

One hundred losses.

We’re not the first team to ever get here, of course. We’re not even the first one this season. The aforementioned Oakland A’s (111 losses at this writing) had a year that almost gave the tragic 1962 Mets a run for their money. Lest anyone forget, that was the year manager Casey Stengel uttered the immortal words “Can’t anybody here play this game?” 

So yeah. We’re not the worst of the worst of the worst.  

Um … yay?

It’s not just the bad season, of course. Everyone gets them eventually. It’s that there have been so many for so long, years where even “mediocre” has seemed like an aspirational goal.  It’s been 16 years since “Rocktober” now. Only four of those have seen winning seasons. The last one – admittedly, one of our best teams since those brief World Series days – was five years ago. 

But even there, it’s not just that it’s happened. It’s how. Get any group of Rockies fans together for longer than ten minutes and you’ll hear the same grumbles. “The owners don’t care. They don’t have to. People keep coming … they could lose every game and still make money.” 

I don’t live in the Monforts’ heads, so I can’t swear to whether that’s true, though I have my theories. (That’s half the fun of being a fan, after all.) But the fact that it’s even credible is toxic. 

After all, it’s a problem that goes beyond baseball. A problem that can be summed up in four words. 

“It’s all about me.” 

It fills the headlines every day. We see it in political showdowns that play poker with people’s lives and well-being. We see it in collisions at every level, where the fears or ambitions of a few can run roughshod over everyone else. During the height of the pandemic, it was an opponent almost as dangerous as the virus itself, when all of us had to remember that our actions affected more than just ourselves.

To be honest, we’re better at that than we give ourselves credit for. Most of us know that we should be looking beyond our own skin, that our neighbors matter. But like a person standing in a doorway, it only takes a few to get in the way of everyone else – not just by what they do or prevent, but by building a feeling of despair that accelerates the cycle. When you start to feel like nothing can be done, you’re less likely to do anything.

Heavy thoughts for something as light as a bad baseball season, I know. But the answer’s the same. Awareness. Hope. Determination. Not to give up, not to wait for things to magically get better, but to act. To remind the self-focused – in the owner’s box or in the nation – that we’re here and we won’t be taken for granted.

Interesting stat – out of all the baseball teams that have lost 100 games, about one in eight had a winning season the next year. Even the “average” mega-loser made their way back to the playoffs in about seven years. Change can happen … once there’s the willingness to do it.

It’s time to play ball. Push hard. And remember, we’re not Oakland.

It’s not much of a battle cry, but it’s a start.   

Time For a Good Man

Missy’s had a new friend hanging around the house lately.

She met him at Kohl’s and it was love at first sight. Now he seems to go everywhere with her. He’s even sat in our evening story times, and since he’s the quiet-spoken sort, it doesn’t disrupt anything. Besides, I love his shirt.

Yep. It’s easily the cutest Charlie Brown doll I have ever seen.

I’m not quite sure why Missy latched on to ol’ Chuck. I suspect the small size and bald head give it a “baby” appearance to her and she’s always been fascinated by babies. When our now-3-year-old niece Riley visits, there’s been several times when the toddler girl and the developmentally-disabled woman seem to have a perfect understanding of each other. Before the fights over the Legos begin, anyway.

But whatever the reason, I’m glad to have him around. Charlie Brown has always been a favorite of mine, the unlikeliest American celebrity of all.

Think about it.

America celebrates winners. Charlie Brown has never kicked a football, won a baseball game or flown a kite without disaster.

America encourages busyness, even hyperactivity. Charlie Brown always has time to lean on a brick wall and talk with a friend.

America urges people to get more, bigger, brighter, better. Charlie Brown rolls his eyes at over-decorated doghouses and aluminum Christmas trees, and picks out a scrawny branch that needs a little love.

He’s not a success. What’s more, he knows it. When he asks into the silent night “Why me?”, the answer he hears is “Nothing personal … your name just happened to come up.”

And yet, if you were to set him alongside most of the nation’s leaders right now – maybe all of them – the little round-headed kid with the rickrack shirt would be the first choice in a heartbeat.

Good grief!

OK, that’s not quite a fair comparison. After all, many things are outpolling the Congress right now, including the IRS, venereal disease and possibly the Oakland Raiders, though that’s stooping a bit low. But still, there’s something about the ol’ blockhead.

Sure, he dodges confrontations and hides from the little red-haired girl. Yes, he gets depressed and frustrated. And everyone knows he was overshadowed by his dog long ago in almost every possible area of accomplishment.

But … well … he’s decent. Courteous. Fair, even when it costs him. He sticks by his friends, even giving up a Little League sponsorship when it means the girls and Snoopy would have to leave the team.

He’s the guy you’d never put in the Hall of Fame – but you’d love to put him in the house next door.

He’s humble.

And I think we’ve lost some of that.

Oh, not at the local level. Not entirely. If anything proved that, the flood did, with good neighbors lining up to work in the muck and mud to help someone else. No pride on the line, just an awareness of someone else’s need.

But at the national level, where expensive temper tantrums can erupt for weeks and change nothing by the end … well, wouldn’t it be nice, once in a while, to have folks who were less sure of themselves?

I’m not arguing that confidence is a bad thing. But it’s not the only thing, either. When Rome celebrated its heroes with a triumphal procession, someone was always assigned to whisper in the hero’s ear “Remember, you, too are mortal.” Humility, in the midst of pride.

Even one of the most self-assured dictators of history, Oliver Cromwell, recognized the need. In a 1560 letter to the Church of Scotland, he wrote “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, consider that you may be mistaken.”

That doesn’t fit modern Washington, where you never apologize (except when caught in an affair), never back down, never admit the other guy might have a point.

And, lately, never get any work done.

Maybe that’s something to remember next year, come November. The confident men and women with all the answers make attractive candidates – but the less certain ones, the ones willing to ask questions, even of themselves, may make better leaders.

And it doesn’t have to be a costly experience.

I even know one guy who did it for Peanuts.