A Light Hitting Hero

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The Cubs are the World Champions! That is a statement that has not been made for 108 years. Last night’s game was one of the best ever (IMHO). Hats off to a Cleveland team that deserved to win as well. But, as we know in baseball, there can be only one winner.

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A tough battle back and forth, combined with intriguing managerial decisions and timely hitting made for great baseball drama. What stood out to me though, as the dust settled after the Cubs on-field celebration, were comments made by Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo. Both Rizzo and Zobrist, undeniably heroes of the game, spoke of the players only meeting led by Jason Heyward during the rain delay and how it impacted the psyche of the team.

As the rain delay began around 11:58pm, the Cubs had seemingly lost their “mojo.” The Indians had gained momentum and tied the game off the Cubs flame throwing closer. Chapman was crying in the dugout as the rain delay was called. The tide had turned for the Indians for sure. The baseball gods sent in some rain and the tarps covered the field as the light hitting hero, Heyward, called the players only meeting in the tunnels under the stadium.

Heyward was only hitting .104 for the entire playoffs and was even benched at one point in the series. Guys like Zobrist, Rizzo, Swrarbreck, and Bryant were hot at the plate and one might have expected them to take the lead at such a crucial time for the team. No, it was the lowest producing offensive players that had the biggest impact. While I have not heard what he said yet, it was clear that Heyward’s impact was profound and positioned the mindset for the team to come out of the tunnels together, with fire and purpose.

We all know how the game ended now. The Cubs got hot at the plate and scored the runs they needed after that rain delay. Heyward struck out at the plate with runners in scoring position in the 10th when he had a chance to contribute, but he had already contributed all he needed at that point. He set the compass right for the team and led them to victory.

The message here is powerful. Everyone can contribute, even when you are not getting hits. Heyward could have let his offensive struggles get in the way of contributing, but he didn’t. Despite his flawed performance, Heyward inspired those around him to play together and believe in the team. I mean, he only had the pressure of the curse of a goat and the 108-year gap of “flying the W” on the last day of the baseball season. Well done Mr. Heyward, well done! I hope Steve Bartman is celebrating somewhere.

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Falling Down and Getting Right Back Up

Last weekend I watched the Indianapolis Colts vs. Kansas City Chiefs game. What a great game! The Chiefs were hot and came out of the gates with full force, scoring at will. Andrew Luck did not help much with 3 interceptions. The game looked out of hand early, but Luck and the Colts did not give up. 28 points down is almost impossible to overcome, or is it? Mr. Deyell would be happy to point out his very own Buffalo Bills, led by Frank Reich, have the greatest comeback in NFL history.

One quick image stood out to me while watching the game. It was a quick shot of Andrew Luck on the sidelines with his helmet on and mouth piece in. It was after his third interception and he was waiting to get back on the field. The look in his eyes said, “I want the ball.” He could not wait to get back in the game, even after his failures. Most of us, myself included would have felt more than deflated being down by 4 touchdowns and having thrown 3 interceptions. If Luck was down (no pun intended) than he certainly was not showing it. There was something about the look in his eyes that told me he believed in himself and his team. That is a growth mindset.

The Will to Win!

The Will to Win!

Falling down and getting right back up is not easy, but Andrew Luck gives us a great example of how-to-do-it. Jim Valvano so eloquently delivered the line, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” as he spoke about his battle with cancer at the 1993 Espy Awards. Andrew Luck showed us last weekend what it looks like to brush off failure and work towards success. Not an easy thing to do, but something to aspire to. Luck is a Stanford Alum and Carol Dweck is the world renowned psychologist and author of Mindset. She is also a Stanford professor. I wonder if Luck took her course? I bet he did.

Simply the Best

The New York Yankees season is over and they will not be going to the playoffs. George Steinbrenner is firing people from his grave right now. Sports breeds drama, yet drama is a choice, according to Seth Godin (I love his blog). Yet, the real story as the Yankees end their season is Mariano Rivera ending his career.

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Rivera went from being a low ranked minor league starting pitcher prospect to the greatest relief pitcher of all time. In this day and age we assume some performance enhancing drug has to be involved. No player is immune to this sentiment and it garners all the attention in sports now. But for a moment I would like to focus on the simple brilliance of Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera did one thing well, and one thing only. He perfected the cut fastball and that was all he ever threw. He was virtually unhittable for his career and amassed over 650 saves. He did not mix it up. He just threw the “cutter.” Every batter who came up knew what he was throwing and he still got them out (Sans a hit by Luis Gonzalez to win the World Series). There was no need to predict what Rivera may do when you got up to face him. You already knew.

I love the phrase K-I-S-S, Keep It Simple Stupid. I say it to myself all the time. Mariano Rivera embodies this phrase. He perfected it in a day and age where mystery, suspense, intrigue and drama is created for the purposes of a gain. Rivera did just the opposite. He told everyone what was coming and delivered it. His success is amazing, but his approach teaches me more. Work hard to be exceptionally good at something. Being good at everything is impossible. What is your version of the cut fastball?

It is fitting that the Yankees will be retiring his number ASAP. The team that routinely creates and feeds off of its own drama (see the likes of A Rod), won because of the simplicity of approach of one dominant person. The number 42 was retired in 1997 in honor of Jackie Robinson. Robinson transcended sports and this was a fitting honor for an amazing man. Rivera was still wearing the number at the time so he was allowed to keep it. It is quite fitting that the last player to still wear the #42 today is Mariano Rivera. It will be great to see two #42’s retired at Yankee Stadium. 42 is a powerful number. It means so much for so many people. Would you be surprised to know that the #42 is one of the most commonly pulled balls in Powerball? There is karma in numbers. Mariano Rivera, in his own simply brilliant way, helped make this number even more powerful.