Giving a Little Thanks

By Ryan Leake
December 2, 2011

Have you ever thought about which holiday is your favorite?  You may be the person who puts together the best Easter-Egg hunt for kids.  The decorative fanatic who starts celebrating Christmas just after watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.  The one who meticulously authors twenty-seven unattainable New Year’s resolutions, then forgets them because…its time to celebrate Christmas!!!  You may even be the suddenly-zealous patriot who “supports our troops” right around the time the Grand Finale goes off at the local fireworks show.

Those are all well and good.  I like the festivity of the Fourth of July, but oftentimes the holiday is lost amidst pretentious nationalism.  I adore the Easter Bunny and his bottomless supply of chocolate.  New Year’s is an absolute scam; an excuse for people to kill brain cells and avoid work for one more day.

You disagree?

How can anyone, in good conscience, celebrate a holiday when the world doesn’t even agree on a date for a new year?

Valentine’s Day is cute.  But do women honestly expect men to fall for a holiday they fabricated just to get stuff?  And isn’t it pathetic to pick out one day to celebrate love?  Shouldn’t that be every day?

For the longest time (and I don’t think I was alone in this sentiment) Christmas was my favorite holiday.  Is there any way a kid doesn’t fall for a fictitious fat guy in a red suit and white beard who brings you a whole sack full of presents?  Even after you realize the guy pigging out on milk and cookies is actually two tired, and broke parents (oops…sorry for spilling the beans kids), you’re still getting presents.  Once Santa’s mysticism is lost, magic remains in the tree, the candy, the decorations, and the “pre-, during, post-, whenever-you-feel-like-it” sales.  It’s fun to put up lights and help mom with extraordinarily-shaped pastry experiments.  It’s fun to hang stockings on a mantle.  It’s fun to be on winter break and escape school for two whole weeks!  It’s fun to watch Ralphie beg for a Red Ryder BB Gun during thirty four consecutive showings of A Christmas Story on TBS (I’m also wondering how they fit that many showings into twenty four hours). The perpetual sugar high alone makes Christmas every kid’s wildest dream.  But I’m not a kid anymore (at least that’s what they tell me) and sometimes, with experience, favorites can change.

When I was younger I asked my Dad which holiday was his favorite.  Being it was around Christmas-time (and I was eager to see what he, and everyone else, had gotten me) I fully expected him to affirm my presumption that Christmas was number one.  I threw in a few calculated remarks in support of St. Nick & his reindeer before Dad answered with:

“Definitely not Christmas.”

I was floored.  What else could it be?  What about the mistletoe and candy canes and carols?!  How could my Dad be so callous!?  Why in the world did he not like Christmas?

“The meaning gets lost in the fluff of the ‘Holiday season’.”

What the hell are you talking about?!

“Too many people make it about the right gift, the right party, the right amount of gifts for each relative.  It’s commercialized and corporate.”

I’m a little kid…I don’t know what that means…but I’m listening…

“How many people really know what they are celebrating or really care what Christmas is about?  To me Christmas means hypocrisy and discomfort.  I don’t even like getting presents.”

You’re either incredibly wise, or Clockwork Orange-crazy.

“I believe holidays are meant for one thing.  Not a need for excess or materialism, just family.  All I want is time to appreciate what I hold dear…family.”

Go on…

“The purest celebration of family comes at Thanksgiving.  No worship.  No mythology.  No hidden agendas.  Only thanks, love, and family.”

Epiphany had.

Thanksgiving was, from that point on, my favorite holiday.  I realized the Native Americans and Pilgrims had it right all along.  Was there anything more practical to celebrate than a successful harvest, good health, hard work, and community?  The name of the holiday says it all; give thanks.  Not just thanks for anything and everything; it doesn’t count if you walk down the street thanking every bum for being a bum.  Give thanks for what matters to you.  For at least one day a year you’re allowed to genuinely care.

The beauty of Thanksgiving is its versatility.  It has morphed into an opportunity for specificity and individualism.  You don’t have to be thankful for what others deem important.  No bunnies.  No Presidents.  No “I’m-too-tired-to-work-so-give-me” Labor Day.  You get to be an elemental human.  You get a choice.  You get to choose what makes you complete.

You have a day.  A day to eat a little more (or a lot if you’re Kellen Lee).  A day to nap a little longer, to hug a little tighter, to kiss a little deeper, to caress a little softer, to love a little from the soul.  You have a day to give thanks for the best things in your life.

Santa Clara’s Baseball program was afforded a unique opportunity when it hosted “Family Day” to conclude its fall season.  Each player’s family was invited to the Mission Campus to celebrate the completion of fall practice and the vision for Santa Clara Baseball moving forward.  In culmination, parents, relatives, family, friends, and alas, girlfriends, were treated to the final match-up of SCU’s fall series between Red and Black (or more aptly referred to as Team Ose and Team Looney, respectively).

After winning the first game of the series in extra-innings, Team Looney dropped the next five in convincing fashion, effectively sucking the drama out of what could have been an evenly matched series.  Coach Oseguera exhausted all avenues of conceit and overconfidence in an effort to exact competitiveness from Zach Looney’s squad.  But nothing seemed to work and the Black team continued finding ways to lose…and lose badly.

Then came “Family Day”; and it was as if new life had been breathed into the lungs of Looney’s players.  The difference was not, however, readily apparent to casual observers.  It wasn’t a palpable difference in strength or speed.  Not a visual difference in appearance.  Not an auditory difference in volume.  Not even an olfactory difference in freshly washed uniforms.  It was a different aura.  The presence of energy Team Looney had lacked for five consecutive games; the energy both teams lacked, for that matter.  I got the feeling Team Black decided to say thank you, to all in attendance, with their passion for baseball.

Like Led Zeppelin, Dido, Sly & the Family Stone, Alanis Morissette, and Jay-Z, Looney’s players found their own way to say “Thank You.”  Quentin Perry thanked the fans by lofting a chest-high pitch on to the batting cage beyond leftfield.  Justin Viele did what he does every day: thank the game with authentic hustle.  Tommy Nance continued his fall brilliance, thanking his way through four hitless innings.  Max Deering was close to surgical in his perfect inning.  Kenny Treadwell (the post-mono version) fireballed his way through one, then bragged about the positive vibes he gets from wearing a yellow Jansport.  And James Smith casually tossed a tantalizing array of pitches on the black to shut the door on what could be the Baseball world’s first-ever fall no-hitter (for the record, Coach Oseguera kept a low profile after the game, quickly skipped town, and has yet to be seen again in the greater San Jose metropolitan area…his pride clearly shaken).

No-hitter notwithstanding, the atmosphere on the field at Schott Stadium was unquestionably better on both sides.  Maybe the players chose to gaze a little longer upon the manicured grass.  Maybe they chose to honor their glove, their bat, their uniform, with a little more affection.  Maybe they chose to hold a ball a little closer to their nose, taking a little deeper inhale, with a little richer exhale; categorizing the smell of the ball with what they feel for the game.  Maybe they simply chose to put on a rousing exhibition for the people they loved.  Whatever the reason may be, I sincerely hope the same choices continue to be made and Bronco Baseball turns into a year-long Thanksgiving…everyone’s new favorite holiday!

…oh yeah…about that whole movie-number-four thing…we’ll wait ‘til next time…just be thankful for the blog!

— Coach Leake


4 comments on “Giving a Little Thanks

  1. According to the NCAA, I got 63% of my education in California. I also read about 63% of this blog before giving up.

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