It’s November now, which for me means No Baseball for the next few, long, excruciating months! How will I ever survive? This baseball season was especially sweet as I watched my beloved Boston Red Sox go from worst to first- from spoiled under-achieving “superstars” to “dig-in-until-the-last-out” grinders.
What made the difference? How could a team so completely redefine their character, work ethic, and results? What did they learn? And, could what they learned be of value to us as parents?
I think the answer to that last question is a resounding Yes! Therefore, as a serious Red Sox fan and an even more serious mother, I’ve spent the last few weeks studying the change in the team dynamic. I’ve read articles, listened to interviews, and reflected closely on all that I’ve learned. To me, the change in the Red Sox clubhouse seems to have emanated from two distinct paradigm shifts in the attitude and atmosphere of the players, owners, and management. Those two shifts changed a team for the better and recognizing the need for those shifts in our homes will change our families for the better, as well.
The 2012 Red Sox were known for their lazy work ethic and lack of team unity. They played and behaved like a bunch of entitled superstars. They reeked from an “I’m too good for you” attitude. They openly mocked their manager and disdained time spent with one another. As a result, they ended the year in last place in their division and with a fan base that was disgusted and repulsed by their behavior.
This year, that same team ended the season with the best record in baseball. They were known for their team unity, others-oriented encouragement, and loyalty to their team and manager.
What changed? This year, the powers to be in Red Sox management made a fundamental shift in their hiring practices. They changed the lens through which they evaluated players. Instead of looking for big-name, big money superstars, they searched for those players who were known for exhibiting good character. They purged their team of entitled and self-centered players and filled the roster with known leaders.
The 2013 Red Sox became known for early practice sessions, team dinners, and a one-for-all attitude. Because their manager clearly articulated the necessity of hard work and a flexible response to change, the team knew what was expected of them and they were able to succeed. And succeed they did! No other team in the history of baseball has ever experienced a turnaround season like the Red Sox experienced this year.
Lesson one for family growth and change is this: Stop trying to produce superstars. Just like the Red Sox, when we are focused on “Hey look at me” results, we will produce pampered and self-centered family members. Instead of a family characterized by hard work and character qualities like perseverance, and loyalty, and diligence, and respect; we will produce entitled young adults who expect to be treated like superstars.
When character takes a backseat to performance, chaos ensues.
Although we can’t purge our family in the same manner that the Red Sox purged their team, we can eliminate those distractions that draw our family into self-centeredness, rather than others-oriented unity. As we work and serve together the temptation to focus on self will be mitigated by a strong family character.
We can build a strong family dynamic and we can have fun in the process. Just take a look at the Red Sox website. With their scraggly beards (Fear the beard, anyone?) and silly nicknames for one another like Dirt, and Cooperstown, and Ironsides, and Grey Wolf these guys didn’t “suffer” into a new team dynamic, they had a blast along the way. So can we!
Building a family dynamic in a home centered on Jesus Christ ought to be the greatest fun our children can experience.
But even changing their character and establishing a team dynamic probably wouldn’t have been enough to totally change the Red Sox season. No, something much bigger and much more important was the major catalyst for change in their organization.
On Patriot’s Day, 2013, just as they were boarding their team bus, the Red Sox received news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Those bombs sent a city into panic and havoc. Within moments of receiving the news, these “new” Boston Red Sox began down a path that ultimately changed not just their season but their perspective on life.
From the moment of the bombings, the Red Sox players took on the responsibility for the name they wore on their shirts. No longer were they “just” baseball players. They were representatives of Boston, and as such, they took it upon themselves to be a part of the healing process in a damaged city. Behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, they visited victims, they raised money; they encouraged, uplifted, and united a city.
Overpaid superstars could have never filled that role. With cameras rolling, the healing process would have become nothing more than a publicity stunt. But these Red Sox players, the new “character” conscious Red Sox, didn’t use a city’s tragedy to gain recognition. Instead, they recognized that as representatives of the city of Boston, they had the privilege to reunite and rebuild. They became cohesive glue that rallied the city, instead of individual players drawing attention to themselves.
Family lesson number two. Just as players like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz and Daniel Nava wear the name Red Sox on their uniform, we too wear a name, the name Christian. Like the Red Sox players, we bear a responsibility; the responsibility and privilege to use our affiliation to reunite people with Jesus Christ and to rebuild lives that have been destroyed by sin. We can use our influence to point others to Christ. We too, can encourage, uplift, and unite.
What a season! Worst to first has changed how a city feels about their team and has rekindled the passion of a team’s commitment. It all came about because of the development of character and a commitment to something bigger than baseball. How about your family? While we may never win the World Series, our stakes are even higher. As our families grow in character and embrace the mantle of Christian, we won’t just capture a title, we’ll change the world!