Earlier this week, during an interview I conducted while working on a Kentucky Derby preview piece, Mike Pons, who along with his brother, Josh, own Bel Air's Country Life Farms, said something that resonated with me: "The whole secret to life is having things to look forward to. You're going to take the girl to the dance, or you're going to get that raise at work. You have to have something on the horizon."
Even as someone who walks around with a semi-constant rain cloud over his head (at least it feels that way sometimes), I'd have to agree with Pons on that point. You're not really living, just existing, if you don't have some modicum of hope in your life. Even if it's something relatively small, say, getting written up in the newspaper for having the game-tying hit in a big softball game, those things are the gas in our psychic engine.
That example I just gave did not come out of thin air. The Fallston softball team, which until Wednesday was carrying an impressive 13-game win streak, took a huge, come-from-behind, out-of-division victory over Bel Air last Friday, erasing a 6-3 deficit in the seventh inning to beat the Bobcats, 7-6. The Cougars' fifth and sixth runs came on a two-RBI shot from freshman catcher Autumn Walinski.
I owe a serious apology to Walinski, as through some breakdown in communication, her game-tying hit was left out of my softball writeup. I'm sure she spent the ensuing days thinking she'd see her name in the print edition, then had to deal with some serious disappointment when it wasn't there. I know I'd be disappointed, because now, as I'm just about 15 years removed from my last high school athletic endeavor (the 1998 Maryland track and field state championship meet), I can recall very acutely similar instances from my own playing days. I think that's why I get so angry with myself, and wind up writing entire columns pointing out my gaffes. I was on the other end of the athlete-journalist relationship, and I know how bad it stings to be snubbed, or to have something you hoped for, looked forward to, just disappear.
Here's a good anecdote, in case you think I'm making all this up. In the spring of my junior year, during which I'd made the decision to quit the baseball team to run track (long, boring story), I had what I thought was a really great week. My team ran meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and in each of those I won the 800 and 1600-meter events by pretty wide margins. I was also the anchor on the winning 1600 and 3200-meter relays in all three meets, so, in the space of five days, I'd racked up 12 first-place finishes. Well, one of those meets went entirely unreported in the county paper, in one recap my first name was spelled "Dewy," (which happened in an email I received yesterday, so that hasn't changed at all) and the sports section's "Athlete of the Week" selection was a baseball player who'd hit three home runs in a game. I remember looking over at the baseball field, which sat right next to our school's track, after I'd just done 20 minutes worth of 400-meter negative split drills (look it up, they're torture), and thought, "I'm over here killing myself, you guys are having a grand old time, and the paper can't even get my name straight."
I chuckle thinking about it now, but it was very serious business to me then, and rightly so. High school athletes bust their tails. Every day they have about 15 minutes after the last bell rings to compose themselves, then it's off to practice or a game. No dinner, no time to decompress, no rewards at the end, besides self-satisfaction and maybe a write-up in the local newspaper. So, to all the people I write about, I feel your pain, and, trust me, I don't sit around in my cubicle, cackling about how I denied someone a mention in an article. I've been in your shoes.