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We Wouldn't Have Lost if You'd Beaten Us

Posted by formerly33 , 02 August 2015 · 1,284 views

Everybody loves a good Yogiism. Accumulatively, I'm pretty sure I've spent hours surfing the internet for new Yogi Berra quotes during fits of boredom, and I never tire of seeing the same ones over and over again. The best thing about it is that just when you think you've seen his magnum opus, you run into another that somehow surpasses the last. One of my favorites, though I'd never call it his best or even necessarily close to holding that status (which speaks a lot for Yogiisms in general), is "You wouldn't have won if we'd beaten you." The blatant obviousness is just so appealing to me - though of course it's that very perspicuity that makes a Yogiism a Yogiism.

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I got to thinking about it. Obviously it's true; as long as there are no ties in baseball, somebody has to win. But I wondered vaguely if it would be possible to argue the truth in that simple yet significant observation, and while I won't try to go there with this post, just for fun I decided to reverse the meaning and see how that came out. This is what I came up with: "We wouldn't have lost if you'd beaten us."

I was immediately intrigued by that phrase. At first glance it may seem a little silly because according to theory you either win or lose; however, there is a philosophical side to this statement. Let me paraphrase it a bit: "Even if you win, you can never beat us." Suddenly it begins to make a little more sense; if spoken truthfully, this can definitely be a perfectly correct statement. In fact, I think that it should be every teams' slogan that they live and die by. You can lose a game by numbers, but you should never lose in spirit.

That reminds me of another quote I've run into time and again: "I never lose; I only learn." To be honest, I am easily irritated by people telling me that I need to stop being so passionate about baseball since according to them, "It's just a game." In spite of that, I am beginning to marginally understand the word "just" in that terse, irritating remark when I look at it this way: in baseball, losses are inevitable. It's part of the game; the losses are what keep us following as much as the wins are. If a team wins 20 of 30 games, they are considered hot, even though that ultimately means 10 losses in little over a month. So just because you lose doesn't mean that you need to consider that game a failure. That would be like going 2-3 in your major league debut and thinking that you were a failure in your first at-bat, though chances are you hit a bullet that just couldn't get through the opponent's incredible defensive infield.

That, though, is barely scratching the surface of what I'm trying to get to. There are those games where a mistake is made. It could be an erroneous play by anyone - a bench player or a superstar contending for MVP alike. It could be a throwing error, a fielding error, a mental error. It could be a baserunning mistake, and you could either blame the player or the coach. It could be a bad pitch, or merely the wrong pitch for the given situation. Someone could have swung at a pitch in the dirt with a full count. Maybe the manager called for the hitter to bunt when any nitwit recently introduced to the game could not only tell you but explain why they should have been swinging in that situation. Or maybe they swung when it would have been better to bunt. Maybe it was a bad call by the umpire. Maybe it was a fan interference that messed up the momentum and completely changed the outcome of the game. It could even have been the general manager's fault for trading so-in-so for so-in-so and so-in-so and sending down so-in-so to make room for so-in-so on the roster. Or if we're talking about an extended period of time, maybe it was somebody's fault for refusing to play with pain and getting put on the DL for the pettiest reasons … or perhaps they were playing through an injury when they should have accepted the fact that they were hurt and stopped sacrificing the team's best interests to satisfy their own inflated ego. The possibilities are positively endless, and that's why we all know those games so well - the games when everybody from the insignificant fan in the bleachers to the obnoxious owner agree that "We should have won that game."

As a fan I know how devastating these losses can be, yet I rarely step back and try to assess the big picture by putting myself in the players' shoes and imagining the demoralizing effect these games must have on them. As professional athletes, they need to go out there and play game after game, and it's not just any old game, either; it is a game that involves emotions and romanticism as much as it does statistics and tenaciousness. Yet oftentimes teams bounce back and give a phenomenal performance after one of these losses. How can they possibly do this?

I can tell you that it isn't because they let a bad game get them down. Yes, there are players who get discouraged by having a bad game, and they find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into a slump until they have absolutely no belief in themselves as an athlete that can perform at a big league level. The effect can be calamitous, and sometimes a whole team goes down with them. This is all a result of them allowing themselves to be beaten; not intentionally, of course, for they still fight to win those games for all they are worth, yet they lose game after game numerically because they have already lost psychologically. They have lost the game before it's even started.

Judging from my personal experience, it takes an incredible effort at times to not let certain games get to you. If a player walked out on the field feeling the way I often do at the beginning of a game directly following an especially disheartening loss, how can I expect him to perform well? And if he doesn't perform well, how can I expect the team to win again? It's when I look at sports this way that I realize that there is much more to the game than statistics.

But if you have an attitude that says, "You didn't beat me. You might have won this game, but you can never beat me. Don't forget that tomorrow's another day - my day," you can never lose. You can use an especially terrible game to analyze past mistakes that have been repeated all season long like a little, ticking time bomb, yet were never obvious enough to draw your attention, and finally, after weeks of underlying presence, exploded, resulting in one of those the-world-is-coming-to-an-end (at least if you allow yourself to look at it that way) losses. The game is lost, but that is in the past. What matters now is the future, and the players and managers who never lose focus on the mistakes from the past and concentrate on eliminating them so that they perform better in upcoming games. That's why a team can lose one game 15-3 and the next day come back and slam the team 21-0. They didn't lose - they only learned.

A lot of people, admittedly myself included, try to stigmatize these types of players by attributing to them a word that they think is defaming or even vilifying: cockiness. Yet it is this very cockiness that leads a team to the playoffs, this very cockiness that helped them go 20-10 earlier in the season. And the very fans who would besmirch their integrity are more than happy to take those wins. I am by no means calling out any such fans or even trying to put myself on a pedestal - I am one of a kind and far too often find myself frustrated beyond words over "just a game." To let a little secret out, almost like Brad Pitt frustrated. The only thing that keeps me in control is the fact that I live on an even tighter budget than him. When you allow yourself to fall head over heels in love with your team, you sign a contract that has an often overlooked disclaimer in fine, black print at the very bottom of the tedious monotony of the document: "Love is blind." Over time you inevitably learn, but I never knew what I was getting myself into when I (rather subconsciously, I'll admit) developed a passion for baseball. Passion...there is no other word worthy of attribution to this feeling we all have for baseball.

Regardless of all my best intentions, though, I often find myself in yet another funk over a bad loss or a bad series or a bad week or month or year. I try to justify it by saying that it has no effect whatsoever on the team, and while in essence that is true, I rarely stop and think about how the players, coaches, managers, front office - and yes, even owners - have to deal with the same problem as I do, except on a far greater, far more significant scale. It is unfathomable to me that a team can go out on the field after being swept by a particularly terrible team who should have been on the other end of the spectrum and proceed to beat up the hottest team in baseball, all because they refused to lose. Players and teams can have all the talent in the world, but there's one crucial ingredient that is prerequisite to any winning team or MVP type player: belief in oneself and, to put it simply, the will and ability to never, ever lose. With this attitude, it doesn’t have to matter if your team doesn't have all the big names like the neighbor out east. It's this attitude that keeps baseball so unpredictable. It's this attitude that keeps baseball sentimental. In part, it is even this attitude that makes the statement, "Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything" (Toby Harrah) true. It is this attitude that keeps me following baseball.

I will never cease to be amazed by these players' and teams' ability to refuse to lose, defy all odds, and achieve the impossible. Most people have a hero, and as often as not, that hero is an athlete. My hero will forever be the athlete that never loses.

Seriously, how can you not be romantic about baseball?

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Read full entry here:
We Wouldn't Have Lost if You'd Beaten Us

  • ashbury, Bark's Lounge, SwainZag and 1 other like this



I would have enjoyed this if I had read it. :)

 

/ did I capture the Yogi spirit?

    • formerly33 likes this

 

 

"Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything" (Tony Harrah)

 

Oh, and I like this quote, but only for perverse reasons. It's typical of a person being interviewed to mangle a quote. The better version is, “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” I would not have expected Toby to necessarily get that one right. :)

    • formerly33 likes this
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Bark's Lounge
Aug 02 2015 04:12 PM

Nice job kid.

    • formerly33 likes this