When we moved to Houston, friends could not give away tickets to an Astros game. We heard them called the Disastros and other less cheerful and repeatable names.
We went anyway, as we like baseball. We saw. . . sort-of-baseball. The team was not good, in fact, was very, very not good, but it was Major League Baseball.
You had to love the team. Of course, we could not love them like friends who remember every season of this fairly young franchise (1969) with one not championships to show for the pain. Being a true fan can be hard. Ask any Packer fan (me!) who stuck by that football team in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Yet as the seasons went by in our six years here in America’s Twenty-First Century City (that’s Houston, if you are not here, you are losing), the team kept getting better. There was a plan, the front office kept following it, and the plan was working. This year, right on schedule, the Astros won the World Series. We were happy and our long-suffering friends were delirious.
There is nothing like that first win.
I know, because I lived decades of sports pain. How? In baseball, I am (at heart) a Pirates fans, but I saw them win a Series on television, so it must be true. As a football fan, for some reason I fell in love with the Packers (even bought a share) and saw them lose from that point forward.
The Packers golden era of Lombardi (the GOAT coach won 5 championships in 7 years) was when I was too little to know what was happening. I started following the team just as Starr (the GOAT quarterback in the playoffs) retired and the winning stopped. It felt like a curse and then the losing kept coming. The Packers hired coaches that were former great players (including Starr) and the losing continued. I remember when 8-8 was a good year.
And then came Favre.
The Packers won the Super Bowl in 1997. This was so good, so very good. Oddly, it is the only year that illness kept us from having a Super Bowl Party. It did not matter at all: The Lombardi Trophy was coming home. It wasn’t me that cursed them. It wasn’t impossible for a small town to win. If you live in Green Bay, know this: on that day, there was a West Virginian, educated in New York, that was as Green and Gold as any man alive.
When they won again in 2011 (with Rodgers), it was great but not the same. Even the Super Bowl loss in 1998 did not hurt so much. Packers fans knew what real losing was and losing a championship (even Lombardi lost one*) was not so bad.
The baseball season is about to start (!) and Hope and I will be back in the cheap seats rooting for the Astros. They are a very good team, a young group, built to win some more Series. We will take it, but my friends who are lifelong Astros fans, not just adopted hometowners like we are, should take a lesson from that Packer win. There is nothing like the first championship.Wisdom. Attend.
Life has many good gifts, but there is nothing like the first of a thing. To attempt to relive that thrill is to make a big mistake. You cannot win a first championship in a lifetime (Red Sox!) again. You just cannot. In the same way, you can remarry three times, but you will never have the first-time again. It may be better, it may be worse, but it will be different. So when my marriage hits a slow point, as marriages do, then I recall: we have thirty years and more in this. There is no going back. I cannot be twenty-two again. There are times when couples (and we have been there) want to start over, because marriage has become hard, dull, or not what it once was.
It cannot be what it once was.
Hope and I married at twenty-two. We cannot be twenty-two again. While many things can be better (and are), there is no going back to the start of our marriage. This was a special time. There have been other times, even better times, but that time is gone and is not coming back. We have been married for thirty-one years and have four adult children. We lost one child. There is no way for a redo. We made our bed and now we must (!) lie in it.
There can never be anything like a first moment of a first marriage.
This is not dreadful. It is real. There are joys that cannot be repeated (the first big win, the start of a relationship) and joys that come with a dynasty. My Patriot fan friends, and I do have some, tell me that it is sweet to keep winning. My parents, married over fifty years and working hard on sixty, say that there are greater joys than they can express in their time of life. They are in love. This hopeful and I can attest to this truth of it, but it does mean there is no going back.
If the first, was worst, it was still first. The church in her wisdom has (rightly) said that there can be no second, short of extraordinary circumstances. That is not because the second cannot be better than a bad first. Of course, it can, but because the normative pattern must be first and only that is joyful. It is horrible when that cannot be, but that is as it is in a broken world. One cannot pretend that a bird with a broken pinion can ever fly as high again. There are other things we can do, such as sing, but we failed.
That must be said.
And so we learn two truths from life:
The first time to win is a sweet time (one hopes).
Life can grant us deeper joys, but not the same happiness.
I hate to admit that these are hard truths for me. I wish to hold the old goods and not move to the new ones. I want to live in the past, but that is not to be and so I cannot wait for next season.
*How many has Bill Belichick lost?