Thursday, July 25, 2013

common thread

Last night we all watched with sympathetic eyes as one of the great pitchers of last ten or so years lay in foul ground clutching his catcher's hand in agony. It wasn't but a few seasons ago that we felt the same twisting feeling as the great Number Ten lay at third base with a knee that was all but torn in two. It's easy to conjure those images in my minds eye, maybe because traumatic injuries are just so unexpected they leave an imprint somewhere close to the top of the brain. Its is, though, as equally as easy to remember the great moments: the walk offs and the strike outs. Its the greatness that is on my mind tonight, and not just the exploits Huddy and Chipper.

There must be some common thread all outstanding people share. It seems to be a rare trait that is hard to pin down from one individual to the next.

As I was growing up I knew an old horse trainer that was well regarded as elite in his particular field. Looking back at my memory of him I see what I believe was a kind heart, but he could be cranky and unpredictable with his moods. Somedays he would be quick with a joke and belly laugh the next day somber and detached. The one thing that never changed; when he was on a great horse he was amazing to watch. He didn't sit in the saddle like a normal person does; he didn't moves his hands like you or I would. He became something more than himself. He became something truly great; a spectacle that can't be forgotten.

One of the athletes competing at the CrossFit Games this week is an young woman that somehow shares something with the old man above. She is very much the same person from day to day. Always a warm smile and genuine kind word can be expected. She is very much different than the old horse trainer, as she wears her compassion for others loosely around her, almost like a subtle piece of jewelry. But the way she moves is very much like him. She becomes something more than she is.  She becomes a mixture of  grace, and strength that I have not witnessed before or since. She shares greatness with an old horse trainer.

Its really not a stretch to tie the pitcher, horse trainer, and crossfiter together. Its obvious that they all hold on to an uncommon gift.  They have not taken their gift for granted, instead they chosen to devote their lives to refining and sharpening that gift. Somewhere along the way, it seems to me, that the line between the gift of athletic ability inevitably becomes blurred with the gift of perseverance.

So tonight, after  two or six drinks of whiskey, I have decided that greatness is understanding your gift and having enough grit to own it.

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