Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rounding the Bases

First off, GO RANGERS!!!  People who have known me for less than 10 years may be surprised by my outpouring of support for and devotion to the Texas Rangers as they play in their first-ever World Series.  But in a way, my return to baseball love fits right into a sort of "Back to the Future" theme that is going on in my life right now.  When you take a moment to stop, look around, and breathe, I think you find that sort of synergy is flowing all around, just waiting to be harnessed, just waiting to be noticed.

I became a baseball fan in 1982, the year the Milwaukee Brewers went to the World Series for the first (and, so far, only) time.  The magic of the game - its athleticism, its teamwork, its energy and grace, like a nine-inning embodiment of the American dream - enchanted me.  I remained a rabid fan for years, transferring my allegiance to the Rangers after moving to Texas, rooting for them through years of mostly medicore ball but still loving the game.  I saw (with my Beloved Spouse) Nolan Ryan get his 300th win against - who else? - the Brewers.  I met Bobby Witt and Kenny Rogers (and have pictures and autographs to prove it).  I listened to more radio play-by-plays on more sweltering Texas evenings than I can count or even remember.

But in 1995, I had had enough.  Enough of so-called professional athletes acting like overpaid prima donnas, demanding more millions in the name of "fairness."  After the 1994 strike and the subsequent unthinkable cancellation of the World Series, I turned away from the game.  I felt justified as I watched (from a distance) steroids nearly destroy baseball.  These muscled, self-centered Herculoids weren't ballplayers:  they were gladiators looking for glory.  Russell Crowe notwithstanding, I'm not a fan of the gladiator ethos.

But this year, the Rangers have brought me back to the game I love.  By playing the game I love.  This is the game I remember:  the gravity-defying defensive plays, the classic 6-4-3s, the base stealing and bunting, the antlers and claws.  As I write this, my Texas Rangers are down 2-0 against the San Francisco (boo hiss) Giants.  But I have faith.  And you can't be a baseball fan without faith.

The Rangers are in uncharted territory this week, and so am I.  I just finished my first week at a new job.  That's not unprecedented; it's my fifth new job since graduating from college in (yikes) 1989.  But it is the first time I've ever gotten a new job while still employed elsewhere.  Fortunately - make that miraculously - I didn't lose my job during the Great Recession.  Not that it wasn't touch-and-go for a while.  But with the economy kinda-sorta-maybe in recovery mode, I probably could have stayed where I was, trusted by my boss, liked by the co-workers, indefinitely.  And there was no reason to believe I wouldn't.

Change is not really my thing.  I'm totally into stability and routine.  I will in fact put up with a tremendous amount of bullshit, as long as it's familiar bullshit.  I was at my former job for about nine years, and in that time I turned down several good offers from other companies.  Because I had it so good where I was?  Possibly, but mostly because I didn't feel comfortable about making a change, even a potential change for the better.  Call it loyalty, or cowardice.  Change isn't easy, especially when you have a long history of not changing.  Ask the Texas Rangers.

Yet here I am, starting over.  New company - in fact, I won't even have an office for another two weeks, that's how new it is.  And when the office is ready, my commute will have doubled from its comfortable 20 minutes down the road to a daily crosstown jaunt.   And my boss works in a different city.  And the company could fail in two years when its government contract is up.  What the hell am I doing?

I don't know.  I don't know why or how all the ingredients came together to make this the opportunity I couldn't pass up.  I can't articulate how I came to decide that a complete shakeup in my life was exactly what I needed, since I have never, ever considered complete shakeups to be a positive thing.  Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers, will give you a dozen reasons why 2010 was the team's year, but the fact is, he doesn't know precisely how or why the pieces finally fell into place just now.  But he's going with it. 

And so am I.  Maybe my team won't win it all this year, but win or lose, I'll have enjoyed the ride.  Same with this fresh start I've just made.  It might turn out terribly disappointing; on the other hand, how can anything so exhilarating ever be a disappointment, even if it doesn't turn out perfectly?  Somehow, the Rangers and I have come to that conclusion at the same time.  Good luck to both of us. 

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