As the year comes to a close, I can’t help but still marvel over the Atlanta Braves run this year. Two months removed from the final out of the World Series, and I still have the afterglow of wellbeing and relief. That can only come after 25+ years of sports heartache living in Georgia. In reviewing videos, rehearing broadcasts, and rereading newspaper articles—what theme continually shows up is the story of resiliency. It is about belief. It is about love. It is about playing for each other that drove this team. I read about what the Braves faced in the playoffs and World Series: a gauntlet of the best teams in baseball—in terms of metrics, the 2nd most difficult path to the championship in statistical history. And remarkably, this Braves team never faced an elimination game—so dominant they were in spite of much loss. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon stated “There’s a spirit to this team”. It is this spirit that defied the odds, where experts around the country overwhelmingly picked the Brewers, the Dodgers, and then the Astros to win against them. This 2021 Braves team exemplified what the proper response is to loss. Out of the bowels of suffering, this 2021 Braves team formed a “togetherness” that mowed through the competition like a runaway freight train. They and the city of Atlanta were not going to be denied.
The Braves did not choose the suffering. Suffering happens, and it is out of your control despite your best efforts to prevent it. But suffering is necessary to awaken the good things that exist within you. Through suffering, you are faced with a choice. To give up and remain lost in your misery. Or to continue to fight…to realize the potential you have of good things: fortitude, compassion, equanimity, endurance, hope—all the best things that make us human. From the top down, this 2021 Braves team resoundingly chose the latter. Let me be clear. What happened to Mike Soroka, Marcell Ozuna, Ronald Acuna Jr and others is not to be wished for, but without falling down, how can you learn to pick yourself up? And in doing it over and over again, you get better at doing it over and over again. Pain drives this process. This path is the only way to cultivate the resiliency these Braves developed throughout the season. And when the Braves were thirsty, this was the river they turned to throughout the playoffs, whether it was a Freddie Freeman striking out 7x, a Luke Jackson giving up a three run homer, an Ozzie Albies striking out with runners in scoring position, a Charlie Morton breaking his leg, a 4 run lead being lost in a clinching game—these Braves stuck together, relying on what they created together. They were a resilient bunch. They weathered the storms together in spite of the ghosts of playoffs past. Baseball courts failure with it’s obsession on performance numbers where the term “error” is a statistic alongside the score: Where for whatever reason, a dominant pitcher just doesn’t have it on a given night or where the best hitter in the game, succeeds less than half the time. Baseball IS failure. Failure personified on a macro and micro level. That’s what makes this game both cruel to those who play it and those who watch it. But also this game for those who play it and those who watch it…if you can embrace the suffering and patiently respond…can have you experience the best of the human spirit.