“What’s with the shrine?” my daughter asked as she came down into our sunroom and observed the gathered assemblage of Yankee paraphernalia one will witness throughout this post’s illustrations.
She awaited a response with the same sort of vague wariness with which I’ve been regarded since what we’ll simply refer to as The Events in the Bronx last evening.
See, my relationship with the New York Yankees goes back to the baseball-card collecting, back-yard-pick-up-game days of my youth. These were the days when the Bronx was Burning and the Son of Sam commanded headlines. I remember it clearly, despite my tender, single-digit years, what with the constant news of murder and mayhem. I recall one afternoon in particular when my father went into the city to catch a game with a group of Sunday School students. I was certain that I wasn’t invited because of the strong likelihood that the party would meet their demise at the hands of the serial killer.
Nevertheless, I do have memories from other trips to Yankee stadium, during safer times, documented in blurry images from my 110 film camera. There’s Bucky Dent running past the dugout, Billy Martin in the middle of one of his famed temper tantrums, and some sort of a post-game scuffle outside the stadium.
According to the team checklist of the back of my 1979 NY Yankee team baseball card, I have—or at one time had—cards of the same year for Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Lou Piniella and the rest of the roster, save five. I’ll have to take a look for those cards.
I also have an entry in an embattled journal for August 2, 1979 which reads, simply, “Thurmon Monson dided today.” I remember that day.
Considering the thematic matter of yesterday’s post, I should point out that it would be a mistake to read too much into the title of today’s missive. My team’s unraveling has not sent me plummeting into a premature “winter.” I have no plans on emulating Hunter S. Thompson, the deeply troubled journalist who offed himself after the 2005 Super Bowl, unable to face the bleak specter of another icy off season.
Today’s title is actually a reference to Fever Pitch, a movie I shouldn’t like, on principal, due to its pro-Red Soxs-theme, but I do, because it’s great baseball. In the movie, Drew Barrymore’s character refers to Jimmy Fallon’s character as alternately “Summer Guy” or “Winter Guy” depending on whether or not it’s baseball season. She fell in love with the versatile and attentive Winter Guy, but was less impressed with the ultra-focused Summer Guy, whose attention was riveted to the historical events that went down during the 2004 post-season. You can hardly blame him—as I mentioned, it was great baseball.
Which brings me to the current state of things in New York, what with manager Joe Torre’s job on the skids for his failure to pilot the team into the second round of the play offs. Sure, it’s a let down—but really, when the options for evaluating the season are pass/fail with the World Series earning a pass and all else is failure, that’s a fail-proof recipe for disappointment. Sure, it’s been six years since a World Series appearance, and seven since a win, but what about the Indians, who haven’t made it since 1948? The sold out crowds, the dramatic come-from behind games, the season’s second half comeback—it was great baseball.
Problem is, I’m a lot more like George Steinbrenner than I’d like to admit. I set my standards so impossibly high, the only direction I can go is down. It doesn’t matter what area—grades, home life, writing—I’ll accept nothing short of superlatives. It’s perfect or it’s failure.
When I was a psychology student, I participated in an in-class exercise involving some type of evaluation of how real life compared to our standards. Mine didn’t. Essentially, I gave myself an “F”. Part of the assignment was figuring out how to fix the gap between where we were and where we wanted to be. I calculated, I mused, I grasped at straws—nothing seemed to fit. Frustrated, I told the professor that the only thing I could do was lower my standards. This was offered as an admission of failure, not as a viable option. The professor wrote in big, red pen, something to the effect that I’d better lower my standards or understand I’d die striving.
For a long, long time I didn’t understand what I heard as a lot of mixed messages. On one hand, we’re supposed to “give our all” on the other hand we’re supposed to know when something is ‘good enough.” How can anything be good enough if you know better is possible?
I’m getting it now, in little bits. You do the best you can with what you have in front of you, and you move on to the next thing. If all you ever do is one thing, ever, I guess you can take the time to make it perfect. But if you want to do many things in life, at some point you have to say, “this is as good as I can do with the time and resources I have now.” And you move on to tackle the next thing.
Of course, my fall break didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted. I had two months worth of activities and projects I wanted to cram into four days. But you know what, I did the important stuff. And now that baseball season is over, Winter Girl is going to have one less thing vying for her attention. School starts back again tomorrow. There are papers to write, and much more Don Quixote to read. Plus, there are all those unfinished projects. Winter Girl is on it.