When I found out the Dodger’s were playing the Rockies while we’d be in Denver for a tennis tournament I thought it would be fun to see the game. Tournaments usually have a lot of down time between matches, so you’re looking for something to do besides worry about your next opponent. I also knew there was a good chance Luke wouldn’t make it past the first round of play so we might need a pick-me-up.
I didn’t mention the idea because it would be a distraction. Tell a teenage boy there’s something really fun to do after a match and their already wandering minds veer of course. It would be tight but if he finished early enough we could make it to the stadium by the national anthem. He’d be thrilled. Grandma even liked the idea so I really wanted to make it work.
When Luke walked off the court trying hard to hold his head-up high after a tough loss I was even more determined. It’s not easy to lose in the first round when you’re a top seed. Folks that didn’t see your opponent don’t understand why you lost. They assume you choked instead of realizing you just got outplayed. Such is the life of any competitor. The battle you have to fight in your mind can be tougher than what you face on the field.
This is why the baseball game diversion felt even more important. I didn’t want Luke to fall into the pit emotionally with a whole summer of tournaments ahead of him. When I mentioned the game and told him I thought we could make it I felt like a brilliant coach/mom. His eyes lit up and he was all smiles. Tennis was now the last thing on his mind. The contrarian in him wanted nothing more than to cheer on the Dodger’s in Rockies territory.
We rushed back to the hotel and I got online to figure out all the details. Fifteen minutes later we were on the freeway at rush hour headed to Coors Field with fingers crossed. When we got downtown and actually found the stadium and parking with time to spare we thought we’d hit a homerun.
Things had gone so well up to this point I wasn’t expecting the turnstile not to move when they scanned our tickets. The usher tried several times and finally figured out the problem. I’d bought tickets for the wrong game. Oh no-o! How did this happen? I was so careful even in my haste.
The usher quickly reassured me something could be done and sent me to customer service. Unfortunately an agent there explained she wasn’t able to exchange my tickets. I hadn’t bought them through the Rockies I’d used Stub Hub. The only thing I could do was buy another three tickets. Suddenly what I thought was a win, turned into an expensive loss if I wanted to get us into the game.
I weighed the options for a few minutes and even with the dollar signs accumulating knew I had to get us into the game. This wasn’t like me. Why I felt so strongly about a baseball game confused me but I instinctively I sensed we had to go. I handed over my credit card bracing myself for the total and got three new tickets. I took them to Luke and his Grandma and sent them into the park.
I set off to talk to the scalpers at the recommendation of the ticket agent. “You might be able to sell them,” she said. “They’re premium seats for a premium game. It’s worth trying.”
Wanting to cut my losses gave me the courage to give it a go. It would have made for a great video—“Blondie” haggling with guys on street corners that look like thugs not business men. I put all my charm to work and did my best but to no avail. Those guys are smart. I was asking them to take a chance they knew was a long shot. I felt like I’d lost in the first round just like Luke.
Deflated I headed back to the stadium. The penny waiting for me at the turnstile shouted, “Trust me—this is worth it,” but I still had my doubts. I felt like such a blow-it. Minutes later when the Dodgers scored and Luke stood up cheering like crazy, I finally relaxed. The magic of a live baseball game had swept him away and I was catching up. At the seventh inning stretch when I asked him how he was feeling he said,
“I’m good. I played hard today. I did my best. I can’t ask for anything more.”
Instant relief—my worry about the money lost went over the fence like the next Rockies homerun and the next. If Luke who is famous for fretting could let his loss go I could let mine go too. In the car heading back to the hotel Luke, for some reason, thought he needed to reassure us that the Dodger’s would bounce back.
“They’ll figure this out,” he said. I bet tonight they take a look at what they did wrong and win tomorrow’s game. That’s why they have the best record in baseball right now. I’m not worried.”
His Grandma responded,
“Just like you. You’ll figure out how to beat a kid like the one you played today. That’s what your record says about you.”
Silence fell over the car. After that thought set in I added,
“Winning doesn’t teach you anything Luke—losing does.”
I’ve said this many times before but something about the peanut shells in our shoes and ketchup on our sleeves made it real.
Luke knew what I was talking about and certainly my Mother does. What we’ve all learned from losing that you can’t learn from winning is how much potential for change you have. Losing as much as you hate it, forces you to look at what needs adjusting in your life. It’s an accelerator. It gets you moving quickly to make necessary changes in your life. Change no matter how much we might intellectually embrace it, usually never happens until we’ve lost something. Whether it’s a competition, job, relationship or even hope that is lost—the ache it brings can light a fire under you like nothing else.
This is a life lesson that is worth the price you have to pay for it and after our conversation I thought it was worth what it had cost me. Luke needed the reminder. I needed it and even at age 76 it’s a great reminder for my Mom. Endings encourage beginnings and without falling behind we might not ever get ahead.
The Dodgers did come back and win the next day. We weren’t at the game. Like Luke had predicted I figured something out because I hate to lose too. I successfully re-listed the tickets and sold them. Now I can add ticket agent to the growing list of skills I never expected to have—and because I’m sure there’s more God wants me to learn in my lifetime I anticipate a few more foul balls in advance of any homeruns.