Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals Can Teach Us

“I’ve been saving this line for tonight: GO NUTS FOLKS, GO NUTS!” (St. Louis Cardinals Rally Squirrel on Twitter immediately after Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.) That’s right, I’m quoting a squirrel. How you like me now?

Holy cow, this year’s baseball playoffs were exciting! And not just because my team kept winning. No, wait, it was exciting ‘cause my team kept winning. Not only did the Cardinals keep winning – they kept winning when they weren’t supposed to be winning. Maybe they won because they were worried Pujols really might not be back on the team next year. Maybe it was because David Freese was fulfilling his boyhood dream of playing in a World Series as a Cardinal. (How do I know it was his boyhood dream? Because he’s from St. Louis and plays baseball. Duh. Plus, he said it in an interview with ESPN.) Maybe it was because La Russa knew this would be his last hurrah and somehow managed to motivate the players into a month long rally that propelled them to World Champs. Or maybe it WAS that Rally Squirrel….

Thing is, the rest of us could learn a thing or two from this year’s Cardinals. In a culture where the individual is king, this group of men brought their individual talents together in an effort to win a championship not only for their team, but for their city – heck, their entire state – as well. They came together for the common good.

I’ve been fortunate to witness this type of team spirit in my hometown over the past five months. After the deadly tornado that swept through here in May, all of us have rallied together to help rebuild our city and help those who lost so much get back on their feet. People from all over the country have travelled here to volunteer with clean-up, provide food and clothing, and even help re-build homes and businesses. Financial support has poured in from all around the world as the city’s leaders continue to work tirelessly to make important decisions concerning schools, businesses, community facilities, and residences that will help shape our future for decades to come. Celebrities like Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs, Barry Manilow, and the Cardinals’ Freese all used their talents and celebrity status to help bring much-needed resources to the city. Most notably, Ty Pennington of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition used his talents, credentials, and vast network to build seven brand-new homes in Joplin, making this the most ambitious project the program has ever tackled.  In short, everyone has used his or her talents to help Joplin come back better than ever.

Barry Manilow donates musical instruments to Joplin Schools

Being a part of a team can sometimes be hard: you must perform your best even when you don’t feel like it. And sometimes you have to put your own needs and wants on the back burner in order to help accomplish the overall goal of the team. But, ultimately, this is what it means to be a part of a team, or a community, or a family. When some teammates are having a difficult time performing (Matt Holliday) other teammates must rise to the occasion (Allen Craig), enabling the entire team to achieve a win. And sometimes some members have greater God-given talent than other members. For example, obviously Barry Manilow has more clout (and money) as a musician than I do. Which is why he was able to donate $300,000 worth of musical instruments to Joplin schools. And I, on the other hand, was able to observe the students and appreciate the music they created by using said instruments at the last home football game. The point is, it all evens out when we work together as a team. If Pujols had hit all those homeruns but the rest of his team struck out or didn’t play decent defense, the Cardinals would never have won the World Series. If Dr. Huff proposes to build a brand new, state-of-the-art high school but we don’t vote in favor of the bond necessary to help raise the additional needed funding for the new school, we all lose.

In life, as in baseball, we all need to learn how to use our talents in order to benefit the whole organization. Each of us has a role to play; each possesses unique talents that, combined with the talents of the rest of the team, help create an overall winning combination.

So go ahead, embrace your talents – whether you are the starting pitcher or lead-off batter or a pinch runner or even a Rally Squirrel. Be willing to play your role - no matter how great or small - on your team and participate fully in the great game of life. We all win when we all play together.

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