All my life I’ve been a creature of habit. Some call me superstitious, but I prefer to be called “animal of habit.” I did it (still do) while teaching, while setting up my day, running my classroom, and taking the course preparing students to be the best person they could be, to theirs top priority even before it was becoming the best student or eventually becoming the best (enter any job, career or profession), athlete, musician, singer or anything else they could become.
I truly believed and always will, as I did and still do, that twenty years before his time in school, sport or activity, no one would remember quite as much what kind of student he was they were, but they would know what kind of person they had become. I’ve tried to stick to that philosophy and apply the methodology that I thought would give them that idea throughout their lives.
I have been fortunate to officiate for many years and have attempted to officiate in a manner that felt that officials, authority figures, adults, teachers, or parents never cost an athlete/student/kid a game, job, or anything could have an undesirable consequence that might get in their way. These were things within their own control, like everything we do in life, “Whether it should be is up to me.”
I’ve had the privilege of being able to coach sports I love (baseball, softball, football) that have presented players with challenges and opportunities that at times have excited, frustrated, or disappointed them, but the philosophy stayed with me. The methods could be adapted from situation to situation, but I always wanted them to know that they had to control what they could control (attitude, maximum effort) and get others to think about these things years after their play/school days to talk instead of grades. Statistics, wins/losses and/or championships.
We have tried to be as consistent as possible. We tried to resemble the practices as much as possible, talk about what couldn’t be done as well, how we can make adjustments, then focus on what was done well and build on that. Coaching/teaching brought with it what some might call quirks that could be misconstrued as superstitious.
As a baseball and softball coach, I would sometimes meet with players in the center of the diamond/circle to discuss strategies, remind players which bunt defense to use or who is covering which base, etc. Over the years , in which I practiced situations, I avoided stepping on the foul lines while making those hill visits.
It was also important to me, after a win, to make sure things stay the way they were during that game. This included not washing my uniform, remembering which sock was on which foot, how I had dressed in terms of the order of putting my clothes on, things like that. I also tried to wear exactly what I wore to the last game no matter the weather for the upcoming game.
Like I said, I’m a creature of habit. When something worked, I tried to leave things the way they were. I also watch my favorite sports teams, and that brings us to the Peanut Playoff.
In 1997, I attended an MLB-ALCS championship game in Cleveland that pitted the then-Indians against Baltimore. Before the game, I bought a bag of peanuts. Since I hated holding the bag, I emptied it into my right jacket pocket and started snacking on it as the game progressed.
Mike Mussina threw for the O’s and he had the Indian number. The excitement (nervousness) made me eat my peanuts faster and by the 3rd inning my pocket was empty. In the 7th inning the Indians were still not doing much, my hands were getting cold so I put them in my pocket where I felt something in the right one. It was a lonely peanut that I missed snacking on. I found the peanut useful for relieving nervousness as I just let it rotate in my fingertips as the game progressed. The Indians evened the game, going into extra innings where Cleveland won it with a botched squeeze bunt game. That peanut was then named and the playoff peanut was born. The Indians won the ALCS and went to the World Series, where the peanut accompanied me, nestled in my right pocket. They lost the series in the 10th inning of Game 7, but I kept the peanut as a souvenir of that experience. It’s captioned and on display in our living room sports museum, where it still stands today except for when the Indians, now Guardians, make the playoffs. In those instances, it takes its rightful place in my right pocket and helps me quench any nervous energy about what’s happening in the game/series. It was particularly useful on his 25th birthday during this year’s AL Wild Card Series when the “Guardian Children” got that streak in the 15th inning on a walk-off home run from Oscar, AKA “SpongeBob SquarePants” gonzales
The peanut isn’t a sure thing, but there were plenty of exciting sporting moments that she and I enjoyed together. No, I’m not superstitious, I just believe if something good happens while you’re doing something, why don’t you keep doing it? Oh yeah, it’s fun too. So if you ever stop by with us, be sure to ask about the playoff peanut display.
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