Bear with me all you non-sports fans—there will be good stuff for you here. I know several of you don’t “get” my interest in sports, but to me, the world of sport teaches participants and spectators life lessons hard to find anywhere else.
This weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays will play two games against the New York Mets at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The event has been dubbed “Expos Weekend” even though the Montreal Expos no longer exist—except in people’s hearts, souls and dreams.
These days I’ve been writing a story about the comeback of the Montreal Expos. Some might call it a fantasy piece; I prefer to call it “planning ahead.” There are enough people out there saying “It can never be.” If I have a role to play, it is to balance that out and say, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if . . .”
My father is at the root of my connection with the Expos. He was the original Expos fan. He watched every televised game and listened to the others on the radio. If a game lasted late into the night, and he didn’t want to disturb the family, he went to the car to listen to the game there. Many a night my father sat outside in the car by himself in the dark listening to Dave Van Horne.
We made family trips to Jarry Park to watch the team. We always got lost driving in Montreal (who doesn’t?), so the trips were an adventure. My parents left plenty of time though, so we arrived early enough to be rewarded with encounters with heroes like Rusty Staub.
In 1981, on what would become known as Blue Monday, I sat in the TV lounge of my university residence watching Rick Monday hit the home run that ended the play-off dreams of the Expos. I cried. The other girls in my residence couldn’t understand why I was so upset, but I was thinking of my father, and how crushed he would be at the moment. Far away from home, I shared that heartbreak with my father. (Truth told—I’m crying now, remembering.)
In 1994, the Expos had the season of their lives. They were on a roll. They were exciting to watch. They were the best team in baseball. Then, a baseball strike shattered the dream.
My father died in 1999, so he never lived to see the Expos franchise end. In 2005, the team became the Washington Nationals.
We played baseball as kids. I lived on a farm, so our field was the cow pasture and our bases were pieces of board or dried-up cow patties. We had a huge Louisville Slugger bat that was way too heavy for me to swing. My father taught me to choke up high on the handle to make it work for me.
My son plays baseball now. He’s pretty good. Here’s a picture of his first at-bat. See the name on the T-shirt? Expos. I have to confess to having some tears in my eyes at that moment, too.
When I watch him play now, when I see him run down a fly ball in left field or strike out a batter, I think: “If only Dad could be here to see this.”
I’m a sports fan, generally. I love the Ottawa Senators, Roger Federer and any Canadian curling team. But baseball is the sport of my soul. It resonates with me. Here’s what I have learned from the game and the Expos:
- Do whatever you have to do to enjoy the things you’re passionate about.
- If you get lost, keep going. You’ll get there eventually, and the rewards will be worth it.
- Sometimes you can do your very best and be oh-so-close to success and still not make it.
- Sometimes you can do your very best and be oh-so-close to success, and some outside force crushes your dream.
- If you don’t have everything you need, improvise. You’ll probably end up having more fun that way anyway.
- If something feels to heavy for you to handle, look for help and learn to adjust. When you make the changes, swing away. You might just make contact.
- An end is never an end; it’s a transition to another form.
- Even if a person isn’t physically with you in the room or in the bleachers, a person can be with you anyway.
When the Toronto Blue Jays came along, my father cheered for them, too. They were in a different league, so that was okay. This weekend it will be the Blue Jays, not the Expos, playing at Olympic Stadium.
I don’t know what you think, but I think my father will be along the third base line enjoying the view.