Contributing this guest piece to Dodgers Nation is Gail Johnson. Gail has written as a full time contributor for Dodgers Nation in the past, and we welcome her back with open arms!
“If baseball has taught me anything, it’s that the failures on the field will pale in comparison with what life will throw at you” – Rich Hill
I’ve been asked many times, most recently but a new inquisitive acquaintance, why I love baseball so much. And any time I try and fail to come up with a short answer to that question, it always comes back to this simple truth: Baseball is life. And life, as it becomes more and more apparent the older we get and the higher level of adversity we face as adults, is much like baseball.
And life goes on.
There’s so much about baseball (and particularly the challenges my beloved Dodgers faced in 2018) that anyone who has ever faced difficult times can relate to.
Almost 7 years ago, in what would become a tragedy that would alter the course of my life, a close friend of mine, a big part of my heart, passed away suddenly. Until then I don’t think I truly appreciated my life, my friends, my very existence. His death changed my perspective on life and everything in my world, and from that point in, I strived to become more grateful and present in my own life, which I’ve accomplished in varying degrees of success and failure since then.
I reflect on that life-changing experience often, never more so comparing my life as a Dodgers fan than I did during the 2018 season, when my team struggled every step of the way – first to fight their way back from a terrible start, to winning a tough 3-team race to win the NL West, to improbably making it to back-to-back World Series.
I think about how winning through adversity and fighting for their division spot made the postseason victories sweeter than during the magical ride of 2017, and how, though it did sting, their World Series loss just didn’t feel as devastating this time around.
I couldn’t quite put a finger on my feelings at the time the season ended, but I’ve come to correlate this newly rediscovered acceptance with simply learning to appreciate the journey and the moments along the way. After being faced with a serious physical and mental health crisis earlier this season and continuing to focus on my recovery (which I wrote about in September here), life taught me once again to just appreciate the journey, and I savoured the moments – specifically the NLCS win – with a lot more heartfelt emotion than I did in 2017.
You see, life often reminds us that nothing is guaranteed – among them, health, happiness and our beloved baseball team winning pennants. I didn’t necessarily want to be harshly reminded of this reality again his year, but maybe it is exactly what I needed to re-appreciate my life’s journey again.
As a result of this re-discovered appreciation of the moment, this off-season started off with only feelings of gratitude, not the unshakable sadness of November 2, 2017. I cried after they blew the lead in Game 4, of course, but I didn’t shed a tear during or after Game 5, the way I have in years past when the season ended. At that point it was apparent the Dodgers were clearly outmatched by a better team, and it was all but over.
My emotional closure also came very early this off-season, when on Monday night after Game 5, I stopped at my father’s house on the way home from work, to commiserate only the way true fans can. It was Dad, lifelong Dodgers fan but always the much more cynical of the two of us, who reminded me this was a special team who had given us a season to celebrate. After having seen many, many versions of the Dodgers take the field over the years, he told me that he had enjoyed this team’s fight back and the unlikely heroes – like Max Muncy and Matt Kemp v2 – who had gotten them there.
He reminded me that it would be all too easy to focus on the fact that they’d lost back to back and forget about the fact that they had been the only team to MAKE IT THERE in back to back seasons. It was simple, but true. We toasted this team and everything my involvement in the Dodgers fan community has brought me – the people I’ve met, connections I’ve made. I left that night grateful for the reminders that we are living in special times for this organization, and the experience itself should be savoured.
I also heard from many friends – some who are casual baseball fans at best who follow the playoffs because they know how much it means to me – who told me how much they enjoyed the series and how amazing it was to see the Dodgers on the big stage two years in a row. There was no hanging my head in shame, and I remained proud to be a fan of this team.
Throughout my journey as an adult, I’ve grown to believe in commitment and loyalty to others, and this is how I feel about the Dodgers — they’re a part of me now, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. It’s true that only those you care about the most can break your heart, but they can often bring you the most happiness and joy.
And now, during one of the worst winters we’ve had in my corner of the world in quite some time, I choose to look forward. To spring training and to the fresh hope it always brings, to the first week of baseball season that will be here before we know it, and to dealing with any changes we may see in life and in our Dodgers team between now and then. I look forward to wearing flip flops and shorts at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, and to hearing the sounds of the stadium, and to reacquainting myself Opening Weekend and during the season with other Dodgers fans who have become long-distance friends.
Like January 1st of each year, New Years Day full of seemingly new beginnings and endless optimism before reality sets in, we baseball fans see Opening Day the same way, with the annual renewal of baseball dreams and aspirations it brings each year. I’ll go into this season reminding myself than like life, tomorrow is never guaranteed, and neither is a winning baseball season. As one who has learned to be grateful for each tomorrow that has come when it didn’t always feel like it would, I choose to appreciate each moment the Dodgers give me as a fan along the way.
…and I still believe that one of these seasons will end with a very special celebration that only Dodgers fans who have survived the rollercoaster ride of the last two seasons can truly appreciate and enjoy.Hello Non-roster invitees, Goodbye to the DL, Harper Revisited, and a Miss on Realmuto | This Week in Dodgers Nation