If you are a sports fan, there likely hasn’t been a series finale as exciting as this year’s baseball World Series. Any sport that has a best of seven game series to decide the champion can create memorable moments.
Add to it, this year’s excitement of two franchises who have decades of championship misery behind them, and you get a really big event.
We all know by now the Chicago Cubs got to claim the title of World Series Champion. It is how they did it that makes me pause to reflect. Their path in 2016 to the eventual championship covers all aspects of what is required to achieve success in life and in business.
First there is the 162 regular games making up the usual baseball season. This represents a marathon of daily change and challenge. Frequent movement between home and away keeps the player’s bodies out of rhythm. Good training for endurance is critical. Injuries happen, so healing and recovery are required.
When one key player goes down, a substitute has to take up the slack, fill in, and perform. Team management has to look ahead, constantly being vigilant for changes in the opposing team’s roster that may be changing for the same reasons. Tactics and strategies are getting adjusted as the games unfold.
Sustaining a winning momentum through a tough gauntlet like this requires keen management expertise, player/employee commitment to a program, and sheer will to survive the schedule.
As the season winds down, teams are selected to enter into the playoffs. Whether a wild card, single game scenario or a 3 or 5 game playoff series, the winnings team has to forget the 162 games of the regular season because they simply don’t matter anymore.
The idea of resting on your laurels has to be abolished. You could have accumulated the highest winning percentage among all other teams for the 162 game season, but if you try to leverage that to get you through the playoffs you will fail.
Rather, you have to take the best of the best reasons you had a winning percentage during the regular season and bring it into focus for the playoffs. The good things need to be enhanced and the not-so-good things have to be minimized.
When playoffs happen, the best players don’t necessarily make the transition. The guy with the highest batting average may strike out the whole way through the playoffs. When that happens, someone else on the team has to step up.
The World Series
Chicago made this one real interesting. They fell behind 3 games to 1 in a best of seven series. All Cleveland had to do was win just one more game. They had three tries to do it. It never happened.
Chicago kept battling back, game after game. They tied the series at 3 games apiece, setting the stage for the winner take all finale of Game 7.
The odds were stacked against Chicago. Few teams survive a 3–1 deficit. The final game was to be played in Cleveland’s home field. The crowd would not be on Chicago’s side.
As game 7 unfolded, Chicago jumped out to a 6–3 lead, late in the game. But Cleveland would not go quietly. They surged in the 7th inning, tying the game at 6–6, sending it into extra innings.
After nine full innings of regular play, the game, and destiny, shifted to a single inning to determine the Champion. All the grueling hard work of the entire season came down to a few fleeting moments. One by one, batters came to the plate, pitches got thrown, and baseball history was being hammered out.
Being the visitors, Chicago batted at the top of the inning. They scored 2 runs, taking an 8–6 lead. Cleveland had to tie it or go ahead during their turn or the game would be over. It was. Cleveland scratched out just one run in the bottom of the 10th to lose the game, the series and the season.
One whole season came down to a series, then a game, then one inning, then one run. Just one.
For Cleveland that one run may as well have been a 0 and 162 record during the regular season. No one ever remembers who lost the world series. For Chicago, that one run could have been a thousand runs; it meant just as much.
Character, integrity, endurance, commitment, fortitude., determination…everything came down to a final few moments.
This World Series and the 2016 baseball year represents a great metaphor in life and business. Most of what you and I do is a marathon. Life unfolds day by day, day after day. We work hard, hopefully achieve something of success.
Yet there are times when we get opportunity to rise to the highest levels of who and what we are. But as that rise happens, there is a test. A test of our endurance, will, and commitment. Can we make the subtle changes we need to make to get over the top?
As the final chapters of that great event unfold, it comes down to key moments. Just brief seconds in history, but time with eternal significance attached.
OK, no, most of us will not claim something as tangible as a World Series ring. Nonetheless we all have key, defining moments in our life when you realize that you got there through a long journey, tested by a short series of situations and circumstances, only to be finally determined (win or lose) by a few key moments.
[reminder]What’s your next championship moment? [/reminder]