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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Regrets. No. Luck. No. Just Life and perspective.

 We got no regrets
Might have seen better times
But maybe we ain't been there yet
Remember the good times
And least you forget
Have no regrets

I don't like to do regrets. You make the decisions you make for the reasons you had at the time you made them. You live with those. But if I had do-overs, a chance to do it again, certainly I know of some things I would do differently. 
I have mentioned this before, but when I was young I was a very good baseball pitcher. Had I not done some really stupid things, I likely would have pitched in the major leagues. Again, I have no regrets. But if I had the chance to do it over, I certainly would have done things differently. Like not being so stubborn and listening to others when they told me not to do destructive things to my pitching arm.

If I hadn't messed up my arm, one of the things that would have been great would have been to stand on the mound at Yankee Stadium and throw some pitches to the same place that hitters like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Reggie Jackson created magical moments from. I can only dream about that now. I did see this magical moment, but it was from the comfort of my home. I was 13 at the time, and by then my arm had been ruined and the reality that I was never going to recover enough to make it was setting in. The moment was still magical though.

Once when I was young, my family was in the Catskill Mountains at Grossingers, which was the big resort that everyone went to in the summer for vacation back in those days. We went just about every year that I can remember until about 1975. One year, all the Yankees were staying there and I got to meet all the players. The Yankees still sucked in those days, and it was just before Steinbrenner bought them and turned them around. But it was still a great thrill to meet professional ball players. I was just lucky to happen to be there at that exact time. Rita Moreno and her family were also there that time, but at that point I had no clue who she was, only that her kids were brats. I was probably a brat as well, but I don't remember it that way. 

Now, I wouldn't have wanted to play for the Yankees. Because I hate the Yankees. Most of us do. But just to be on another team and play there, in Yankee Stadium (The House That Ruth built) would have been the thrill of a lifetime.  
I never did get to see a game in Yankee Stadium, although I did have some chances if I had made an effort. I never did. This in spite of the fact that I made many trips to New York City in the summer and had many chances to see a game. Again, not a regret, but if I had the chance to do it over, I would make the effort.
That is something I can never do again; watch a baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Not the new one they have built now, but the one they built in the 1920's. The one that Ruth built. That stadium is gone now, so I will never get that chance. So be it.

But if I had the chance to turn back time, or go to some Fantasy Island place and actually do it, I would certainly put that in my top 5 things I would do over again.
But what I can do is make sure I take advantage of the ones that are still out there. Last year I went to Wrigley Field and saw a Cubs game, and in two weeks I will go to Fenway Park and see a game there. I like to think I am trying to seize the moment now. Some things you can't go back and fix, but you can learn and do better. 

I also managed to make sure to go to a Dodger game in Los Angeles and one in Anaheim and those were great memories. 
I felt that way about Maple Leaf Gardens, before they moved to the Air Canada Center. Luckily for me I grew up in Toronto and got to see that great shrine many times before they tore it down and built a grocery store in its place. 
Somethings you just can't describe to someone who has never been there. Maple Gardens had an aura. You could even feel it on TV, but certainly it was different in the rink. I have been to many other rinks, but nothing compared to that. I suppose I was just lucky to happen to grow up in Toronto and be able to see quite a few games there. Or was I lucky?
Which brings me to something that occurred to me while I was writing this blog. The topic of good luck and bad luck, or just the concept of luck in general. I came across this story yesterday while I was watching an interview on Charlie Rose with a fine writer named Mackenzie Bezos.

 Maybe (Taoist story)

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe," said the farmer. 

When I moved from Montreal to Toronto in 1977, I certainly did not view that move as good luck. It was not my choice, I wasn't in favor of it and if I could have I would have thought myself very lucky to stay in Montreal and live my life. 
But many great things happened while living in Toronto. One of those was seeing hockey games at Maple Leaf Gardens, something I likely would never have done before it closed if I hadn't moved. I also made some great friends here, and although I am sure I would have done that in Montreal as well had I stayed, it seems like I was lucky to be here. Considering how Montreal has gone to crap in the 30 years since I moved, that was also a very lucky thing for me. 
And the reason I got to see many of those hockey games at Maple Leaf Gardens? Because I made some great friends who had tickets and offered to take me. Many of my memories of games there were of the people I went with. Just about every memory involves that. You can never take those memories away.
The point is that you never know what is good or bad luck when something happens, because you don't know what the next thing that will happen now that the first thing that has happened will be. Just like the farmer in the story above.
Maybe if I had kept playing baseball, my life would have taken some horrible turn that I wished I could turn back time and avoid. Maybe I would have been the greatest of all time. Maybe if I had gone to a game at Yankee Stadium I would have been mugged in the parking lot. Who knows? Nobody knows. 
I used to resent the Yankees and George Steinbrenner because I viewed what they and he did as ruining baseball. I still think they did, on many levels, but I can't say it was good or bad that it happened. Because if he didn't save the Yankees by buying them, and do all the things he did, then everything that happens after that would have changed. For the better? For the worse? Who can say? Nobody can. There is no certainty in speculation. It's a fools game. Just like I mentioned off the top. You make the decisions you do based on the data and information, feelings and thoughts you had at that time. Life doesn't give you do-overs, just chances to learn and do better in the future.
When I think back on baseball, the Yankees have always been buying their way to the top at the expense of other clubs. Even in the heyday of old style baseball, when Babe Ruth was the reason they built the original Yankee Stadium (The house that Ruth built), they bought him from the Red Sox and many other players to create the dynasty. My romantic notions of baseball as pure and not about money back in the era before television is just that: romantic and not based in fact.
It was always the evil Yankee empire. Long before George Steinbrenner ever bought the team. You can't change history and you shouldn't. Things happen for a reason, and you can't regret your decisions because of it.
This whole blog idea started when I was watching this documentary last night. If you are a baseball fan, or just a fan of history, maybe you might want to watch it as well.

All you can do is live for today, and don't worry about tomorrow, or regret yesterday. That is the way I try to live and I think it is sound advice.What happens today might seem to be a stroke of bad luck, but you never know that until the next thing, and the next thing, and the thing after that. Life is fluid, as is good times and bad times.

Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
And don't worry 'bout tomorrow,
hey, hey, hey
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today

And finally, I will leave you with the words from a song by Frank Sinatra. He didn't write them, but he sings them well. I'm sure the farmer would agree with me on that.

That's life, funny as it seems.
Some people get their kicks,
Steppin' on dreams
But I just can't let it get me down,
Cause this big old world keeps spinnin' around.

I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king.
I've been up and down and over and out
But I know one thing:
Each time I find myself flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race.

That's life, I can't deny it,
I thought of quitting,
But my heart just won't buy it.
Cause if I didn't think it was worth a try,
I'd have to roll myself up in a big ball and die.

When your horse runs away, or your son falls off a horse and breaks his leg, you can't quit or let it get you down. Maybe something good will come of it. Maybe not ever getting to watch a baseball game in Yankee Stadium or playing on that field happened for a reason, and something good came of it that I never even realized.

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