Mom, can I stay home to watch the World Series?
For many of us who grew up in a certain era, baseball connects us to our childhoods. And no one evoked that more beautifully on the night of Oct. 21, 2015 than the manager of the New York Mets baseball club, Terry Collins. He did it using the power of story.
The Mets – my team since they lost 120 games in that first season of 1962 yet won their way into my heart – had just swept the star-crossed Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant. They were going to the World Series for the first time since 2000 (a painful Subway Series loss to the cross-town Bronx Bombers) and for only the fifth time in their 53-year history.
At the news conference, one of the reporters asked Collins what the victory meant to him. His answer illustrates how story grabs us at a deeper emotional level.
Here’s the exchange between the reporter and Collins:
Q. You've chased this moment for an entire baseball life, a lot of decades. I wonder if you could reflect on what it means to you. And I'm sorry to ask this, but did you reflect on your dad at all in those moments near the end of the game (Collins’ father had died before spring training this year)?
TERRY COLLINS: "Yeah, baseball has been my life, my whole life. I was one of those guys that started playing when he was 4 or 5. And I told a story tonight to some people that … this day would have been my mom and dad's wedding anniversary, had they been alive.
I remember, when I was 12 years old, I was such a baseball fan, I was begging my mom to stay home and watch the World Series between the Yankees and the Pirates. And she wrote me a note … that I was sick in the afternoon and couldn't go back to school ... because the World Series were all in the daytime back then … .
I'm sitting there tonight thinking, holy crap, now you're in it after all these years. It was worth the wait. It was worth all the work.
So it's a special moment for me. After all these years, when this has been your whole life, to finally get to the ultimate series that every person that's ever played this game wants to get to. Let's go home and enjoy it.”
Story involves us
Does Collins’ story make you smile or choke up a bit? It did for me. It’s not like we know Terry Collins or his parents. So why does his story touch us?
On one level, it’s seeing what this moment meant to this man. The 66-year-old manager had spent his life in baseball, yet he’d never been to the top of the mountain, the World Series. Not even close. Hell, when the Mets defeated the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 26, 2015 to clinch the National League East, it was the first time any of his teams had ever won a playoff spot.
So at the personal level, the moment was sweet for a guy who’d finally reached the pinnacle of achievement in his field. But the real power of a good story is its ability to involve us. We put ourselves in the storyteller’s shoes. We become the heroes of our own dramas. And that’s why Collins’ story goes deeper.
Story is universal
His story is powerful because it is universal. We’ve all been kids. We all have mothers. Some of us may have lost parents. By sharing his memory, Collins activates our own memories. We remember our mothers and fathers, perhaps some act of grace or benevolence, from our distant past. And then we’re connected to what it means to be human: our own longings, losses, struggles and triumphs.
Collins becomes our surrogate. He is the Everyman who stands in for our longing to chase a long-held dream, struggle, suffer and one day see it realized.
It’s a great lesson. If you want to people to listen, relate, support or understand you, tell them a story. Get personal. By revealing your humanity, you just might make someone want to cheer for you.
Even without Terry Collins, I’d be cheering for the Mets. But after hearing his story, I’m that much more emotionally engaged. Go Mets!
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