Grandfather Walker took me to the ball game regularly. We were required to call him Grandfather. He was a gentleman, and a sportsman, in the truest sense. Baseball was only one of his passions. I remember him to be a man of few words and among all of his grandchildren, he spent lots of quality time with me. He taught me to score the game in the program in our quiet togetherness. Over the years, amid the noise and countless onlookers, I learned to absorb the nuances of the contest.
Forty plus years later, I paced my living room wearing my team ball cap, completely consumed in an emotional frenzy of indescribable proportion. It was the prefect scenario. Many, if not most of us have experienced it. If in these final minutes and seconds, should the stars align, something miraculous would occur. We would make it. My team would move on to the world championship “The World Series” for the first time in forty six years. The first time in my lifetime. Few thought we were capable of pulling it off. My mind raced as I watched. I calculated and anticipated every detail. I saw more than the camera man and the average fan. As I watched, with time running out, I knew we were up against it… I am a student of the game.
It was almost as if she were attempting to communicate directly with me. During a pause in play, the television camera panned the stadium. They were on their feet and there was high drama throughout. The camera lingered, and there, framed before me a woman stood sullen, with a look intense concern on her face. Above her head, she held high a sign which read: “Ya Gotta Believe”. In all my years watching baseball. This was the first time I had ever seen such a sign. I prayed… I can’t begin to tell you how I prayed.
For the life of me I cannot explain what motivates a reasonably intelligent and mature man to reduce himself to a fanatic “fan” of this magnitude. It is important to me that I point out my ability, and willingness, to confine this emotional pastime to the solitude of my living room. In the interest of clarity, I do not don face paint or streak naked at public contests. This exceeds my comfort level with regard to fanaticism. The emotion however, should not be understated, and I have learned and succeeded in the application of such passion in other aspects of my life.
I have experienced many challenging, disappointing and even devastating events in the course of traveling the path of life. There have been stunning lows and incredible highs. I am compelled to recall them occasionally. I remember from a learning perspective and also how I felt emotionally at the time. It keeps me grounded, and I am grateful for having known both achievement and survival. In this contest of life, I am also a student of the game. I pay close attention to the nuances, the little things that can sometimes rather easily escape me. These little things are the stuff that lasting pleasure and true happiness are made of. They are the things that none can be deprived of, regardless of our current condition. Yet these things, should they remain unnoticed, will leave the most successful and accomplished unfulfilled.
There is no permanent condition of despair. More importantly, I choose to accept that there always exist untold possibilities and opportunities. Periodically, and with intense focus, I take myself to the place of fortitude, hope and optimism deep inside. Then, with unwavering confidence, I can envision the endless wonderful dreams within my grasp.
All the time knowing, within the depths of my soul: “Ya Gotta Believe.”
Footnote: The 1997 “Cleveland Indians” advanced to the World Series.
Leon A. Walker is a published writer of lyrics, poetry, short stories, columns and original quotes. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio though he currently resides in Northwest Florida