Because the winter past was particularly dreary, any sign of respite has been welcome; a little sun is all I ask, that and the crack of a bat and a head-first slide into second, or a deft pass for a one-touch score from the corner of the crease.
The inevitability of spring is enough to brighten one’s mood, but, for me, who must cover them, interesting teams further lighten the step. Last spring was dreary that way, though I sense this April and May will be different, that there will be more things to enthuse about than to commiserate over.
It’s not all about winning, which, while nice from a sportswriter’s point of view, takes a back seat to enthusiastic engagement.
This, then, is my pep talk, kids: No crowing, nor hanging of heads, please. Treat victory and defeat as the impostors Kipling said they were, and smile, don’t forget to smile. (After removing your mouth guards.) It’s fun, you should be happy just to play.
And remember to forget yourself. Don’t think when you’re playing, it should be a time for reaction rather than reflection. You can reflect all you want when the game is over, thinking on those things you ought to have done and of those things you ought not to have done, resolving, of course, to do better next time.
Life’s a marathon, they say — at least for most, so, for most, there will be plenty of time for reflection, for an examined life. But that shouldn’t lead you to be complacent. Marathoners sprint too, they do interval work at times.
Somebody on the radio the other day said he sang every song as if he were living his last moments on the planet. Good advice for all of us, though especially for athletes when fully engaged, joyful, free of anticipation and regret.
The softball team is very young. Lou Reale, the coach, said that at one point during a scrimmage this week he counted six freshmen and two eighth graders on the field. They’re beguiling in their eagerness and attentiveness, but they think too much, he said, and thus their moves, because they’re reflecting more than acting, haven’t acquired the fluidity yet that’s required for such a bang-bang game.
But he knows this in-the-moment state, this joy, will come. He sees the improvement every day, he says. And, consequently, this crusty old coach’s mood is bright.