This is a series I am starting about those flash moments you get in sports that NEVER leave you. Athletes know that these moments are not and CANNOT be planned. In the decades of sports, I still have these plays, these visions, and these games I can see like it was happening in the present. The first of many is this true tale of a girl and her dad completing the best play that baseball has ever seen, a true Royal Flush for you poker players.
UNASSISTED TRIPLE PLAY
Picture this: Last inning, bases are loaded. No outs. The tying run is on third base, ready to steal at any moment. The cleanup hitter has stepped up to the plate. Michelle Williamson is on third base for the very first time and her team is up 11 to 10 runs. Michael Williamson, has lined himself next to third in ear shot, aware of his daughter’s lack of awareness.
The pitch is thrown, WHACK! Line drive to third base, every runner is off– this is truly a SHOT. That has to be the game… or is it? With a quick swipe, the ball is caught. Young Williamson has it.
The ball is in her glove, people!
Now, this is where the sports madness happens.
I literally am so shocked this beamer is in my glove I freeze.
My dad starts to scream directions on repeat, the only way to break my tunnel vision. He screams, “MICHEEEEEEELLE!! STEP ON THE BAG, MICHELLE. STEP ON THE BAG, MICHELLE,” on repeat. I point at the bag questioningly, kind of like ‘this one, dad?’ while he continues, then of course, I step on the bag.
My dad then starts pointing the other way like a madman, and I’m all like ‘Dad, I did the thing, what now?”
The next continued phrase becomes, “TAG THE RUNNER! MICHELLE TAG THE RUNNER!!!!” I turn and start casually heading towards the kid coming from second with my glove out, while his coaches scream at him to stop for the LOVE OF GOD. He doesn’t– and so I get that glove to his also unaware chest.
The game is over! We won! WE WON THE THING! Young Williamson has discovered sports.
Man, I remember that feeling. That feeling follows you for life– sports give you a high you can’t even understand before you get that adrenaline fix.
Now with a game-ender like that– my dad yelled “Ice cream for all!” and bought everyone ice cream. He always said, “Whether you win or lose, it’s really all about the ice cream” and for chubby me, it WAS all about the ice cream (and also for the old fashioned McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwiches, ORIGINAL RECIPLE, after practice nights with Marc and Dad.)
COACHING/ TEACHING IS IN THE WILLIAMSON BLOOD
Sports have always been the Williamson thing. That’s how I learned most lessons in my life. Well this sport short story is no different.
My dad has loved sports his entire life. He watched them, played them, and his most favorite- he coached them. My dad has been my life-long coach outside of even just sports. He trained me on how to play in the game and how to head to the ‘social’ after, as the rugby players call it.
When this sport short story went down, my dad was ecstatic. Proud daughter memory moment captured! Photo snap in the brain files!
He came running over screaming about the unassisted triple play. This is a phrase I did not know at the time and one I couldn’t have completed without my dad playing coach from the sideline. I can still hear my dad repeating, “STEP ON THE BAG MICHELLE. STEP ON THE BAG.” I mean, he was my dad. He knew I didn’t know what the hell was going on, I just happened to have a good glove. I kept my “eye on the ball,” a phrase I still hear in my dad’s voice in my sleep. It was definitely better than when I tried dance, and would try to look around mimicking what other people were doing. Thank god he got me out of there and taught me to catch something instead.
My dad, my coach.
WHEN A GREAT THING HAPPENS YOU CELEBRATE LIKE A CHAMPION
My dad said it was so unusual for an unassisted triple play that it had only happened such and such times in such and such games in whatever year. (Sorry dad, those kinds of sports facts always left my brain but y’all get the point– VERY UNUSUAL)
My dad told us that it was the only time any of us would ever see that in our lives– and nevermind that the tying run was on third against our rival!! That meant it was an ‘ice cream for all’ day.
The lesson here is to work hard for victory and to celebrate like hell when you get it. Now how do champions celebrate?
Champions walk over to the other team and shake their hand and they goddamn mean it, you hear me? That person played hard, practiced hard, and put their body on the line the same as you. They deserve respect and gloating is not part of the champion toolbox. Marc Williamson taught me the most disrespectful thing to do in life is to let someone win because you’re telling them they are unworthy of a fight.
You respect your opponent.
Then you party hardy with your team. Now back in this day, that meant ice cream; but most know many many moons later, I would discover rugby. Rugby, much the same, valued sportsmanship. Rugby players invite the traveling team to a social and enjoy that same “ice cream for all” kind of vibe.
In sports, champions work hard. They put in the work to get “it” whatever it is. The league champions. Season champs. Nationals. Finals. Senior Game. Alumni Games. RUCK FEST. Whatever the thing is, you fight to be strong enough for it. That is a life lesson in itself. Fight to be strong, in case you win or in case you lose. Strength is required in BOTH.
When you do get it, you celebrate hard.
Williamsons work hard, but as they say we party harder– because you absolutely have to enjoy the good times in life. You deserve to celebrate the things you work hard for and believe me there are always bad times around the bend waiting for us. When the good times are here, we must fill our emotional tanks in this life and find all the loving good memories we can. Try to include as many people in that happy journey as you can. This is how we recruit more happy people in this life. Keep those people, keep those memories.
After you celebrate the good times, you know there will be bad times. Just as you don’t and absolutely can’t win every game, life will deal you cards you didn’t expect- shit ones, bad ones, absolutely unbearable cry-your-fucking eyes out ones.
You have to celebrate the unassisted triple plays with your team because the days won’t always be like that.
WHEN A TERRIBLE THING HAPPENS YOU GRIEVE LIKE A CHAMPION
This week is always hard for my family. 8 years ago, we lost one of the coolest, kindest people I have ever known– my step-brother Justin. Now Justin wasn’t just the favorite among his bio siblings, but his step siblings, Marc and I, as well.
Justin and I always got along a little extra in my eyes because we were the chubby kids. We just were. I loved food, he loved food. We joked about it a lot. I followed him around a bunch and tried to hang out with him as annoying kid siblings do.
Justin let me follow him. He told me about high school, older kid stuff. He talked to me about my goals of losing weight and eventually he lost a ton of weight because he became a runner. I remember him taking me to Six Flags, just us, when he got his license and got access to the big green family van.
Justin was just the coolest, for lack of a better phrase. I can hear that phrase in my little kid voice as people we lose get stuck in time. I’m older than him now and that hit me like a ton of bricks recently. He really won’t see my house or come to Easter again. It’s not fucking fair.
Now, I’m not sure the phrasing grieve like a champion is the best way to put it but fuck, surviving grief WITHOUT imparting more grief on the rest of the world, that is the best a champion could ever do. That’s the thing we have to do here, for more is unreasonable of an ask for mere humans.
Grief doesn’t end unfortunately as time goes. Grief isn’t linear, nor exponential thank god, but it is sporadic and random instead. Sometimes a good memory of Justin comes and I smile. Sometimes a memory comes and choking stale pained sobs come as if we lost him yesterday.
COPING WITH LOSS LONG TERM
Now long term grief is different. When you lose something simple in your life, grief comes and you lose it. The grief goes as you get over the thing, whatever that thing was.
Well the THING here is, this wasn’t a mere thing, a mere idea, a mere loss in the game. This was my brother– the coolest, remember? It isn’t fair because the world NEEDS JUSTIN.
Justin was and is LOVE. He was just a rarity and I truly am sorry for you if you did not have the pleasure, because dear reader- I KNOW LOVE. Justin was pure, the kind of person who literally couldn’t help himself from helping other people. If you met hit, I’m glad you were one of the lucky.
For Justin, grieving like a champion isn’t the same as someone else’s grief. Everyone is different and we grieve differently.
So what is grieving like a champion for Justin?
For Justin, grieving like a champion means going out and putting that good back into the world just like he would have.
My stepmom Diane does that daily, I do that daily, and because we do that– we never lost Justin and the world didn’t. He is with me every day and if you’re with me, he’s with you, too.
THE GOOD THE BAD
In the end, there is good and bad in this life. All we can do is truly celebrate and grieve like champions.
We celebrate life, the good times, the mere good days. We celebrate life, because we should for it is truly more precious than we act on the daily.
We grieve when we must, but we must force ourselves to put that grief to good use- whatever that may be. For some, like my family, we put Justin’s word, his bible of pure love if you will, back into this world. For you, grieving like a champion might mean just moving on and living because we all know that is what our family members who have left this world would want.
ACT LIKE CHAMPIONS
So dear readers, please go out and act like a champion.
Do what you must to find things to celebrate and when you must grieve, just don’t pull others down along the way.