The bad part about winning is that at some point it usually stops. And after a while, it wouldn’t be much fun if it didn’t– we require the contrast of the shadow to appreciate the sunlight.
But sometimes those shadows are awfully long, and sometimes your comfort is availalbe in no other form than, “Well, that loss everyone predicted wasn’t as bad as it could have been!”
That was the L many locals had to take on New Year’s Eve. The University of Cincinnati failed to advance in the NCAA National Championship– but then just getting there was the trick, wasn’t it?
But now we endure the rapid leak of a team that took quite some time to build. Coaches leap to the NFL and other schools, and the players aren’t far behind. And who could blame them? Much the same would likely have happened in the event of a win.
This is why hope is dangerous, dangerous thing. It makes the everyday more endurable but the letdowns worse. That is why baseball has ever functioned as the sport of hope. Hope stays alive much more easily when spread over 162 games. Football? Lose the first six or so and you’re done.
Unrealized potential is perhaps the most unendurable form of letdown. This week my working company was an hour and a half of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden taking the L. When I saw the description for “Doc and Darryl,” two players I don’t much think about since they are out of the wishbone C orbit, my initial reaction was probably the same as every non-Mets baseball fan who was sentient in that era:
The two words popped in my head pretty much simultaneously. The documentary spent scant time on their background, a few minutes zoomed in on the ’86 Mets, and the bulk of the time on their struggles with drug abuse and entanglements with various legal systems. They shared details of their lowest moments with straightforward expressions and unaffected speech. Gooden talked about missing his own team’s World Series ticker tape parade due to a bender in much the same tone as he did his changeup.
They didn’t rush through the recounting, but nor did they linger. The story of how these two supremely talented men threw away the W’s that were their lives, grasping for damaging comforts to ease their stress and childhood traumas, forced some perspective into the UC situation.
That both players are still here to tell their story is a win of itself. At some point, in the depths of their addiction and court dates, both of them likely preferred it otherwise. But that wasn’t the plan. Some strand of survival kept Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden alive, and both seemed somewhat baffled by this.
But they both managed to turn their questions into positive action: Strawberry is now an evangelical speaker who works with children diagnosed with autism. Gooden, eliminated from Hall of Fame consideration by failing to garner enough votes, still struggles, and more ostensibly. Mentions of him mostly recall his past feats or concentrate on his son’s own potential.
But he’s still here. Last season he sat for an interview about how he never misses a start by Jacob deGrom. He is at least acknowledging the possibility of a future.
That is how you take an L. It’s easier for some than it is for others. I used to think it was romantic and wonderfully telling to let something break you, to stay down when pushed, because you cared so much about what did the pushing.
But the opposite is true. Taking the L is tougher, but it grants at least the possibility of the renewal of dangerous, dangerous hope.