Many years ago, I had a neighbor who was an elderly widow. One morning she went outside and discovered that someone — we never found out who – had deposited a healthy, little puppy in her front yard. It was clearly not an accident. We decided that someone knew how lonely our neighbor was and decided she needed a companion. She named her puppy Lucky. And, yeh, he was a pretty lucky pup. He was lucky our neighbor was up to a task she didn’t ask for. She kept good care of her pup, although a bit of housetraining would have been a nice touch.
So, let’s talk about luck.
Because the notion of luck often rankles me.
Has anyone ever told you that your success or the fruits of your efforts were lucky? Someone once told me, quite kindly, that I was very lucky that my massage therapy practice was doing well during such tough economic times.
Luck? That’s it? I’m just lucky? OK, maybe. But, maybe, just maybe — and I’m going out on a limb here — but maybe, my clients have found some value in my work. Maybe I’m good at my job. I know they didn’t mean anything rude by it. And, yes, I do believe that random things happen that influence one’s success or failure. Right time, right place. That can lead to a bit of good luck. But, to suggest that someone’s good fortune is pure luck … well, that’s just unfair.
And, you know what? Maybe, just maybe, the Baltimore Orioles are more than lucky, too. Maybe, they’re a good baseball team.
I am so tired of the so-called baseball experts who have decided that since the Orioles’ success this year doesn’t fit into their neat little mold of what makes a team good … that the statistics show that the Orioles should be no better than average … that there’s no way they could possibly be in a pennant race in September … then, surely, the only answer is that they have been lucky.
This has gone on all season. The chatter started already in April. They couldn’t explain why the Orioles were winning. That’s because there’s no easy way to chart intangibles – like team dynamics, players improving over previous seasons, or the zen-like influence of a manager like the Orioles’ Buck Showalter. And, without the intangibles, yeh, sure, the Orioles sort of looked beatable on paper. So, without bothering to think through the intangibles, a lot of sports talkers – ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and, just yesterday, National Public Radio among them – decided the Orioles had to be simply lucky.
I say, they’re wrong. Baseball statisticians haven’t found a way to quantify intangibles. But, that doesn’t mean those intangibles don’t exist.
If luck drove sports, then wouldn’t every team hover around .500? A little good luck. A little bad luck.
Or, how about this — maybe everything is luck. If the Orioles win a game, are they lucky? Sure. They’re lucky it didn’t rain and stop the game. They’re lucky that their winning pitcher didn’t fall down the dugout steps and dislocate his shoulder before the game. They’re lucky that the losing team scored fewer runs.
Every team has their good luck. And, their bad luck.
But, luck doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What those “experts” call luck, I call a good mixture of talent, heart, skills, and smarts. The Intangibles (which, by the way, would be a terrific title for an action movie).
In the case of the Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, I guess you could say the O’s are lucky that their superstar rookie is Manny Machado and not Bryce Harper.
And, here’s just one reason why. Enjoy one of the most beautiful, exciting, and head’s up defensive plays of the year, courtesy of a 20-year-old rookie. Did he just get lucky? You decide.
Click here to watch.
Oh, and the Orioles won again today. (yippee!) Wrapping up a three-game sweep of the surging Tampa Bay Rays. So, I guess all that luck of theirs hasn’t run out yet.
I haven’t watched a complete baseball game in decades. In fact, my last real memory of baseball probably was when my dad played for a team overseas at one of our State Department postings. I was a typical 8 year old who cared more for getting the prize out of the cracker jack box than watching my dad who was up at bat! But, I must say that your blog has been bringing all the fun of the game back to me. I even find myself singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (one of the first songs I ever learned!).
I, too, wonder about the term ‘lucky.’ Maybe people should start saying ‘right on’ instead. Being ‘right on’ is more than being in the right place at the right time. It’s being wise enough to recognize a favorable opportunity and being even wiser to jump right on it! That sounds more like it.
My problem with the term ‘lucky’ is that wisdom and talent don’t seem to matter. Some ‘lucky’ dust settles on you and, presto, everything comes out smelling like roses. How smart or talented or able a person might be doesn’t seem to factor in to luck. Luck can happen to a cat who stumbles on a dead mouse or a sleeping person who wakes up next to a huge tree limb that fell from a 90′ treetop! Anything and anyone can be lucky in the right circumstances, but I agree that luck has nothing to do with making the right play or pitching a no-hitter or smacking that ball out of the ball park. That’s all talent!!!
I can hardly wait for your next entry!!!!
>> It’s being wise enough to recognize a favorable opportunity and being even wiser to jump right on it! <<
That's the point I was getting at … but you said it way, way better (and far more succinctly) than I did. And, I guess the reverse is being wise and resilient enough to cope gracefully with those unfavorable things that come up from time to time, too. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts … Right on!
Your comments remind me of friends who were once told how lucky they were to have such well behaved children. “Luck!?!?” they thought. “We work really hard at raising well behaved children!”
I agree there’s luck — which I don’t believe is evenly distributed — and talent and hard hard work!
Also, I appreciate your observation that baseball hasn’t figured out a way to measure intangibles. This fits right in with a blog I’m writing now on both the importance and the limitations of measuring happiness — can I quote you?
I love your “luck” example! :)
I guess we grapple with intangibles on all levels, don’t we? When I teach Yoga, I can explain to my students that Yoga will make their back feel better, I can explain how it will ease the stress in their mind, their central nervous system will relax. But, it’s so much harder for students to accept the more intangible — and, arguably more important — benefits that Yoga provides in supporting and nourishing the energetic and subtle body … the light at the heart. I suspect that measuring the intangibles of a happy heart is just as challenging. If we can’t absorb it through our senses, it can be as if it just doesn’t exist … or we wrap it up and just call it “luck”.
If I’ve said anything in my post that’s of value … please do use it! Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. You make me think better! :)
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