The magic in Madison

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There’s a moment in everyone’s life where the magic fades.

It could be when you’re 13 or 33, but it happens. It happens when you’re not looking. Suddenly, the colors aren’t as bright and the food doesn’t taste as good and the kisses don’t linger quite so long and the sounds aren’t so clear.

Life today, even with all the screens we use as shields from actual experience and feeling, is hard. It always has been. It’s meant to be hard.

And people, for the most part, try hard. And then they get old. And then they earn their rest.

But something is sad about the moment the glow of what’s possible begins to fade. When dreams that should have been realized, turn to aspirations, turn to reality.

Something very real is lost when the magic goes away, because it never does quite come back. We recall our firsts: first time away from home, in love, toes in the sand in Maui, cry of our children—with such profundity. They’re the only things nobody can take away.

When the magic goes, those everyday miracles are all we have.

But there are moments, yes. Fleeting moments when we, as a collective, can experience magic courtesy of another. I don’t know what it’s called or whether there’s a word for it, but Wednesday night, Madison Bumgarner, a 25-year-old pitcher with a molasses drawl and a slack jaw fastened to his face with a scraggly beard, made me, made his team, made us, feel magic again.

It was only for a moment. Five innings and approximately an hour and twenty-eight minutes to be exact. But it was there. He was hovering above all others. Look at the replay, he’s ever so slightly not touching the mound. Forty thousand in the stands plus about 20 million more watching or listening in from afar. A man, one like you and me, threw a ball with such grace and precision with such resolve and ease that it was magic.

It’s as if he knew the outcome going in. As if he made his teammates believe, with his sheer presence, that they were better than they were.

And that’s what they became.

Everyone is capable of small doses of greatness and it does happen more than we give one another credit for. Think of your significant other. How you met. Why you’re still together. How the every days add up into years and decades of making the impossible happen for one other, for your family. Becoming greater than yourself, every day, just to push that heavy boulder up the hill. That is magic too.

Think of a friend or relative who needs you to be you and to listen. To hold their hand and pull them up when they can’t. Think about merely being there, your simple presence, and how much a change that can make in someone’s life. Your breath, your smile, the squint of your eyes. That is magic too.

Think about the work that you do. Whether it’s at a desk or under a canopy of trees. Chances are the weeks sort of harden then melt away with the seasons like a pond in the woods. And you’re constantly left wondering, is that all there is? Is this what I was meant to do? Is this all who I am? And then you answer that by waking up and doing it again.

But it is good work. And all good work requires a dash of magic, or at least spreadsheets, in there too.

Statistics show the World Series Madison Bumgarner had is beyond compare. In baseball, as in life, a man is solely judged against his peers. When that’s no longer possible, he’s judged against history. When that becomes a task too difficult, he is crowned one of the greats.

At 25, Bumgarner could pitch for another decade. But the ball will never spin off his left hand in quite the same way or on quite as big a stage as it did last night. Like all magician’s tricks, his had a climax and that landed in the glove of third baseman Pablo Sandoval for the final out of the 2014 World Series.

Tah-daaaaah.

And I sat there and I came back to Earth too. Once more in my living room. And I sniffed then I cried. Because I’d seen something that was better than me, better than anyone. I’d witnessed a moment of perfection, right here. I’d been a part of something without being a part of it at all.

I wrote yesterday, just hours before Game 7, that in spite of the outcome, today I would: “Wake up, run, shower, work, come home …and think about the next time I’m going to see a story this grand unfold on TV. It won’t be for awhile.”

What I did not mention is between then and now, I’d see a little bit of magic. And that’s something I didn’t expect. Not only the witnessing of it, but the belief in it. That’s something special. That’s what it’s really about.

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