Before I was 10-years-old, the Minnesota Twins won two World Series. For a boy growing up four blocks from their stadium, this was idyllic. But in the mid 1990s, things changed and the team went from contender to baseball’s basement. For the past 22 years they haven’t even sniffed at another World Series.
In the early 2000s, the Twins made another turnaround to at least become a perennial playoff contender in a weak division, and in 2010 they won 94 games. The following year everything fell apart: The pitching was awful, their best players were injured, and they slogged their way to one of the worst seasons in team history. I was flabbergasted and perpetually frustrated. They failed, and I was angry. Last year was supposed to be another turnaround year. Not so. They were awful again. This time I was just disgusted. What a bunch of losers.
With spring training now in full swing, this season doesn’t promise to be much better for the Twins. They still have no decent pitching and a bunch of unproven players. But you know what will be better? Me. Rooting for a bad baseball team has taught me some important lessons. (You might think I would have learned those lessons earlier since all the other Minnesota sports teams are perennial disappointments, but no: I’m slow.)
I have no expectations for the team’s success this year. I am relaxed and ready to enjoy what I can about their season. I am looking for the little pleasures: Joe Mauer’s sweet batting stroke and his pursuit of a fourth batting title, and fresh-faced rookies getting a chance at glory in the major leagues. And baseball itself is a joy to revel in and absorb.
This year might not offer many highlights for the Twins, but there are young players on the team and in their farm system who offer a bright future. If I am unable to watch my favorite team win now, the hope of future victories is a sweet consolation. As Andy Drufesne wrote in a letter to Red in the movie Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Bad baseball isn’t the only place such lessons matter. Is your work situation disappointing? Maybe changing your expectations to a more realistic level and learning to find happiness in doses is what you need. Your church might be slipping in attendance or mission, which causes you great pain, but maybe you can find hope for the future somewhere in the mess. Maybe it is your children or your spouse who are failing. But you love them far more than I love the Twins, so you too can find the goodness in them, and in that is happiness. Life brings disappointment regularly, and whether it is through baseball fandom or some other source, finding hope and happiness in the midst of it is essential.