Next Best Thing

It isn’t very often that fairy tales are less magical than the truth. Or that the story you are watching unfold in real time is more compelling than the fantasy.

But when those moments come, stop for a moment, and pay attention. It may be that the stories are but a dim reflection of the Truth that is actually around us, inside of us, longing to be realized.

As Game 7 of the World Series came to a close, I knew it was one of those moments.

I think there is something inside of each of us that roots for the underdog. We may be staunch supporters of the other team, but our hearts are still moved by the come-from-behind victory, the regular joes upsetting the titans. We see ourselves in the victor and remember that sometimes David does beat Goliath; that the odds cannot be stacked against us forever; that we have already won the battle.

Sure, I can sit back and scowl and wonder why the Cleveland Indians weren’t the team to tip the balance in the back half of the 90s (instead, we got to be the first team in major league baseball to lose the World Series after carrying the lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game – who doesn’t want that distinction?) But in my heart, the Cardinals victory eases the sting a bit. Their unforeseen championship means that there is hope, even for Cleveland.

Thomas Boswell, writing in the Washington Post this morning, captured the mystery that so often hovers over stadiums and arenas, just out of reach, but somehow tangible in spite of that:

What moves us so much about a two-month trek like the ones the Cards just finished is not that it is literally “impossible”. Of course it’s not. What grabs us is that it borders on the unbelievable, it presses against the walls of wish fulfillment, in a way that we recognize from our own lives.

What the Cardinals have done in their athletic world is akin to the best possible outcome we could imagine for ourselves, or those we love, in some area of our lives if maximum effort and maximum good fortune conspired.

Those here, clad in red and waving white towels, as well as all of us who have joined this ride along the way, don’t cheer the Cardinals, root for them and identify with them because they are complete heroes but because, as a club that merely tied for the eighth-best regular season record in ’11, they are slightly flawed athletes, banding together to surpass themselves.”

And this is so often the case, is it not? That when we band together, we surpass ourselves and tear back another corner of this darkness and maybe, if just for a minute, catch a glimpse of heaven.

May we all have eyes to see.

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