My son Ari is a huge baseball fan. He was throwing a ball before he could walk. He used to practice off a tee in my kitchen when he was 18 months old. He would walk around in a full Jays uniform. And when he was three, he used to introduce himself as Jose Bautista when anyone asked his name. He never missed a beat.
Today, at age seven, he knows every player, their history, their statistics. He’s still a huge Jays fan. He even had his head shaved at the sides to look like Josh Donaldson. He is such a big fan that he took every loss in the post season rather personally. He cried after Cleveland got a hit or a homer. He cried after every Jays loss as if it was his own. When the series ended, the Jays truly broke his little heart.
It was cute, I’ll admit. I love how emotional he is. I love how much he loves the sport. I love that he wasn’t afraid to show his disappointment, to be so invested, so consumed, to show how much something means to him.
But when his team lost, it also served as a life lesson; a lesson I was proud to help teach. “It’s all Gibbons’ fault. They need a better manager,” Ari said.
“Ari, we don’t blame anyone. Everyone worked hard and tried their best but it’s a team effort. No single person is responsible.”
“But it’s not fair,” he sulked.
“They made it this far two seasons in a row. That’s an accomplishment. Only four teams get to do that. And only one team can win. We can’t all be the winner every time.”
I don’t want my kids to be the kind of people who point fingers at others. I don’t want them to make excuses. To be bitter. To cast blame. I want my boys to learn to be humble in victory and in loss. I want them to be proud of themselves for trying their best. I want them to accept responsibility. I want them to be positive, to try hard, be the best they can be, and be proud of themselves no matter the outcome.
Perhaps the biggest and best lesson came after the game. As we watched the post-game commentary, I hope the Jays restored his faith and helped reinforce an important lesson. In interviews after the last game, each of his heroes—Donaldson, Pillar, and Encarnacion—talked about the game with the best possible sportsmanship, the best possible attitude under the circumstances. Their underlying message: this is baseball, we tried our best, the other team was better this series and we wish them well. They were disappointed, of course, but they didn’t place blame, they weren’t angry at one another, they didn’t lash out or insult their team or opponent.
Dealing with disappointment and loss isn’t an easy lesson to learn, especially when you’re a little kid. It takes time and maturity, things the Jays have mastered during their baseball careers. If these guys can do it—players whose livings and reputations are based on how well they play—then my boys can learn as well.
The end of the season was heartbreaking for all Blue Jays fans, not just Ari, but I hope we learned something in losing too. I’ve heard this phrase a million times, and I’m sure I’ve said it to my boys a million more, but it seems to be true: Winning isn’t everything.