& a lesson in manhood: redemption road

Lessons in Manhood

Lesson 9: Obligations and Forgiveness

Squatch, you might have noticed that Daddy likes baseball. Just a little. You like it at this point in your life, too, but in reality you crack up at any moving shape. You’re pretty easy to entertain. Don’t ever change.

We’re Giants fans in this house, and we’re even winning Mommy over, but you knew that. Otherwise that Brian Wilson doll would just be kinda creepy. Last night was Game 1 of the World Series. You’re almost 4 months old, and you already get to experience your first Giants World Series*. Too bad you won’t remember it.

*Don’t get used to this. It doesn’t happen every year. Just every other year, apparently.

Let me tell you about the pitcher who started for the Giants last night. His name is Barry Zito, but I like to call him the Albatross*. This is because he signed the biggest contract in baseball (at the time) before the 2007 season and immediately began to make every Giants fan regret it. It’s not stretching to say he stunk. He’s been the highest paid player on the team every year since, and most of those years, he’s been pretty much the worst player. Last time the Giants were in the Series, they didn’t even put him on the roster.

*This is just Daddy getting all lit nerdy on you.

This year, he’s done better. Not “You Were Worth Every Bit of the $99 Million They Paid You” better, but he provided a solid outing for the Giants whenever he took the ball. They even won 12 straight games when he started heading into the playoffs. He was still Barry Zito, but he was looking a little more like the guy the Giants decided to give that ridiculous payday to.

Still, we Giants fans didn’t really trust him (or like him much) heading into the playoffs. You see, Squatch, when you don’t follow through on your obligations, on what people expect from you, you tend to lose people’s trust. They stop liking you. And in the case of Barry Zito, when the Giants decided to pay him $16 million a year, fans expected him to be worth at least most of that. Only he wasn’t living up to those expectations, and the fans generally wrote him off as a loss.

Till last week. For some reason, in Game 5 of the NLCS, with the Giants down three games to one, they decided to start Barry Zito—he guy who has tortured Giants fans for six long seasons with sub-par performances and general suckiness. They sent him out to take the mound, and Giants fans around the world could be heard muttering, “Well, it was a good season anyway.”

But he came through. Barry. Zito. BARRY ZITO. He shut down one of the best offenses in the National League. He pitched like he was the Giants’ ace, like he’s been doing this all along. He stood on the mound, he threw the ball, and he somehow managed to handle every expectation that Giants fans had when he signed that contract in 2007.

He was a hero.

Now, Squatch, you’re probably wondering about that. Can one game—one good game—cause an entire fan base to suddenly say, “All is forgiven”?

Yep.

You bet your ass. It was a performance that shifted the momentum of the series, ignited one of the greatest comebacks in Giants history, and got them to the first World Series of your (as-of-yet) brief lifetime. He earned that $99 million.

Then he went out last night and did it again in Game 1 of the Series. He again shut down one of the best offenses in all of baseball. He outpitched the reigning (and likely repeating) Cy Young winner. He had fans chanting his name. He got a standing ovation as he exited the game. And the big difference was that people thought he could do it this time. We trusted him. We believed in him.

Forgiveness is a big part of being a Man, Squatch. Forgiving someone for six years of disappointment after he shows up when he’s needed most—that’s expected. That’s earned.

The lesson here is that you need to live up to your obligations. You do what you said you’d do, what others expect you to do. And if you don’t—if the world seems to turn on you when you fail to meet those expectations—you have to earn that trust back. Sometimes that takes time. Sometimes it never happens. And sometimes it just takes one great day.

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