With all the trials and travails impacting Houston the past few months, it’s been a wonderful relief and distraction for the area to experience our Hometown Team in the World Series. The Astros are a combination of youthful exuberance and steady veterans who truly seem to enjoy playing together. The energy they ignite flows outward as if a resonant wave embracing all fans.
Leading two games to one – and with a big chance playing at home to put the Dodgers in a big hole – George Springer hit a home run that gave them a 1-0 lead going to the 7th inning last night. Then the bullpen took over… and the Astros lost 6-2.
Any system – or sports organization – is only as good as its weakest link Think: broken sprinkler head in your backyard, field goal kicker in college football, or busted hose on the engine of your car; if everything isn’t working in unison, there’s going to be a brown spot, broken dreams or you stranded on the side of the road.
Unfortunately, for all the Astros’ maneuvers to create a sustainable winning franchise, the failure to acquire a reliable closer prior to the trade deadline in July may prevent them from claiming their first world championship after 55 years of disappointment.
That said, hope springs eternal and all they need is for Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander to throw nine shutout innings each the next two games… and they’ll be spraying champagne in L.A. on Tuesday night and hanging a banner in Minute Maid Park come the start of the 2018 season. Even weak links can be overcome – as long as someone else picks up the slack.
The Texas Legislature meets once every two years for five months, which means elected officials have a lot of work to do in a short time. The 85th Regular Session concludes today – and the past 140 days were filled with barbs, accusations and criticism volleyed back and forth between the Senate and the House – without much being accomplished.
That’s becoming more typical every biennial session… and a similar thing occurs in college football, which kicks off the 2017 season in less than 100 days. Alabama doesn’t like Auburn. Michigan can’t stand Ohio State. Army despises Navy.
In Texas, generations of Aggies and Longhorns – who often grow up and work side by side – are taught from the cradle about the greatness of each school. Although the teams haven’t met on the gridiron since 2011 when Texas A&M left the Big XII for the SEC, maroon traditions and burnt orange blood forever run deep. Aggies still proclaim ‘Goodbye to Texas University’ and Longhorns continue to say ‘It’s goodbye to A&M’.
Yesterday, our family attended the wedding of the son of longtime friends. Like his parents, the young man is a proud former student of Texas A&M – and there were dozens of their kindred spirit at the reception. Toward the end, the DJ played the Aggie War Hymn and the dance floor quickly filled with chanting of ‘Hullabaloo Caneck! Caneck!’
At which point, my friend’s brother – knowing our deep University of Texas roots – yelled at me, “Come join us, David.” So I did. Locking arms and swaying with them as everyone leaned left and right. I smiled while they sang ‘Saw Varsity’s Horns Off.’
It was a gesture in support of the groom and his family – and with best intentions for wishing the young couple prosperity and joy as they begin married life.
Perhaps our public servants – in Texas and Washington, too – would achieve better results by showing some humility for and understanding of peers on the other side… regardless of their ingrained beliefs, values and traditions.
I’m watching the Ryder Cup while I write this blog. (Great thing about switching to Uverse recently is one of our receivers is wireless, so I can move that TV anywhere in our house, including next to the keyboard in my office. Works great on football weekends when I put it next to our main set and watch two games at once.)
As the matches got underway, I heard a rabid U.S.A. fan shout, ‘Miss it!’ as soon as the player for team Europe hit his putt. While I understand the emotion that arises during these matches every other year, rooting so hard against the opponent goes against the spirit of the game.
Of course, that was nothing compared to what Kathy and I experienced two weeks ago at the end of the Texas-Cal football game. We were in the stands at Berkeley when a call went against the Longhorns during the last two minutes. When the game ended and Texas lost, at least 15 disgruntled fans tossed water bottles onto the field. It was one of the worst displays of sportsmanship I’ve witnessed.
Walking (a long way) amidst thousands of people to meet our Uber driver, we happen to come alongside UT-Austin president Greg Fenves. I told him how much we appreciate the way he sat in the stands during the game, instead of in a luxury suite – and suggested the next monthly newsletter he sends to alumni should address the proper way to act at games.
Then again, given the raucous crowds that attend one of our presidential candidate’s appearances, maybe I’m setting my expectations too high.
Golf is my favorite sport to play – ever since I was nine years old hitting rock-hard Top Flites with my dad’s old red-grip clubs around a four-hole course that had plastic greens. As a teenager my friends and I toured the munis in the DFW area. Green fees: $10. I even have the scorecard from the first time I broke 100.
Sometime around age 20, my friends named a shot after me. The ‘Handler Shot’ – which they still use all these 36 years later – comes out whenever someone hits a fat flub into the water. That was a regular occurrence of my youth… and a sarcastic tribute that lives on.
I became a pretty good player in my late 20’s, then gave up the game – save for the occasional scramble – when our kids were young. I started playing again a few years ago, and have my handicap back in single digits.
That said, I still struggle with the game playing inside my head. While I’m typically a ‘glass half full’ guy, on the golf course negative thoughts dance around my mind… especially whenever a foursome behind us catches up on a crowded tee box, or we play through another group. Something about eyes watching causes my muscles to tense up.
So, at age 56, I’m reading ‘Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect,’ by noted sports psychologist Bob Rotella. He makes a lot of interesting points that resonate with me:
‘A little doubt or a little indecision is sufficient to impair performance.’
‘People by and large become what they think about themselves.’
‘We are endowed with the most marvelous computer system imaginable, and it is wired to maximize physical performance and grace if a person simply looks at a target and reacts to it.’
Come to think of it, those are good reminders for business, too. Glad I discovered this book. Of course, it was written in 1995.
The Olympic Swimming Trials are in full swing this week, and since the nephew of a good friend of ours is one of the world’s best breaststrokers, we’ve been watching. (Of course, Michael Phelps is competing, too, so that adds to the fun.)
Last night as we watched the final lap of a women’s freestyle race in which I didn’t even know the swimmers – with the favorite clinging to a slim lead – I said: “She better watch out or Lane 5 is going to pass her.” My daughter responded: “Dad, you’re always so negative about sports.” Then my son said: “Yes, he is, and doesn’t that get old?”
Wow! Talk about a learning moment. I take a lot of pride in having a positive attitude – and it definitely shows up in our marriage, good health and business success. Yet, when it comes to sports, I am definitely a pessimist. That’s probably from a lifetime of experiencing the agonies of defeat sprinkled far too infrequently with some thrills of victory. (See Texas Longhorns football failing to win their last game of a season four times when it would have meant national championships.)
So this morning I made a vow. No more allowing sports to give me highs and lows. If my team or athlete wins, super. If they lose, so what? That has to be a much better way to enjoy life.