I Think We Need a Pep Talk!
I am not going to talk about last night’s game in this blog right now. I think I have a more important duty to preform that will be vital to the Tampa Bay Rays 2009 foundation both at the fan base, and at the player’s level. Right now the skies might seem to be darkening and become a bit cloudy as to the direction of this team. But it is moments like this that either you stand up and rally behind your guys, or you look for the exits like some of the so-called fans when we are losing in the eight inning. I am more inclines to align myself with the crowd that would be yelling a Twisted Sister song at the top of my lungs. “We’re Not Going To Take It” should bellow through the Trop. tonight when the Boston Red Sox come to town. For in the next few games, the fate of this team could be revealed by not holding true to four basic mental elements to the Rays 2009 success.
Now I am not talking about tangible physical elements here like situational hitting, or even the fact that the plate is bouncing around on saome of our guys right now. But the mental aspect of the game of baseball can take you to the road to ruin faster than a Stephen Strasburg fastball down the middle. The basic mental elements that need to be rebuilt, or even repaired right now both on and off the field in the stands is faith, confidence, resilience and spirit. Some people will say that all four of these words have the same basic foundation on your psyche, but I think they all play a different role, but work towards the same mutual road of reason. It is for that reason that I decided that since I could not sleep tonight to write this passage as a inspiration blog to those who want to turn their backs on the Rays right now. I want to turn the frown upside down on the fan who sees the loss column and is frustrated and doubtful right now.
I am in the same boat with you on that lake of doubt and frustration, but I also know that the only way to beat it and not let it eat at me is to dwell on the positives, and encourage instead of destroy all the good the team has done in the last 12 months. Come on people, in 2008, Las Vegas had the Tampa Bay Rays odds of winning the World Series at 150-to-1. they had the Boston Red Sox as an early favorite at 9-to-2 odds, and who did we beat to get a spot in that World Series again? Just for giggles, the New York Yankees were 11-to-2 odds of making the Fall Classic, while eventual winner, the Philadelphia Phillies were a 14-to-1 shot to make the big leap. So that brings me to mt first point today. Faith. Everyone says they have it, but only the true believers display it loud and proud. With that in mind let me start with a quotation on Faith and we can roll on from there.
” It ain’t suppose to make sense; it’s faith. Faith is something that you believe that nobody in their right mind would believe” – Archie Bunker
That is right, I quoted a television personality that was based out of New York. The reason I picked Carroll O’Connor aka Archie Bunker is the plain fact that when I was a kid, my Dad always got a kick out of his Archie-isms. But what is true about this statement is the fact that the 2008 Rays were in that complete boat most of the year. Only the Rays faithful and a bakers dozen of sports figures anointed the Florida team with any chance of achieving in 2008. And even after such a rise to winning as 2008, the 2009 projections for the team bordered on the plus or minus of 10 games over the .500 mark. Faith right now in this team, by not turning your backs, or even putting on that dusty Red Sox jersey is priority one right now. If we lose one fan to the loss of faith or hope, we lose the fight to convince his friends, family and other that the team is on the way up, and not stuck in the mud at the bottom of the division.
“Faith sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”
That last quote was from an anonymous source, but it is so true in the Rays fight for recognition and a place in baseball last year, and again in 2009. This team is not garnered the respect and the fear of the baseball big boys yet. They know of the hunger and the yearning of this team to correct their 2008 mistakes and take that trophy again for themselves. Faith in their abilities is the foundation of that journey. For if the team is to again take to the mountain top, it must first feel the pain and struggle of the climb again and this time relish in it from the first step. This is the moment to put all that dried up emotions of watching them celebrate in September 2008 after securing their first playoff berth. Faith makes you believe in miracles, and wasn’t 2008 billed as the Rays “Magical” season.
” My theory,is that if you look confident you can pull off anything- even if you have no clue what you are doing. – Jessica Alba
Sorry, I just find her adorable, so I had to include her quote. But she is totally right here. In 2008, the Rays had to boost their air of confidence to new heights and believe some of the hype that was trolling in the Internet ponds as to their potential and their chances. Hey, even though we have hit a snag in the fabric of the season, we still have a 33 percent chance of making the 2009 playoff according to some updated odds. that is a lot better than the 11 percent that the Toronto Blue Jays currently have, and they are leading the American League East standings. I am sorry, but i am not a great cheerleader here. I was the guy out on the field who got to hear the cheers and jeers from a distant. Much like the Rays, I understand that the stadium noise and upheaval can weigh on both benches in a game.
The confidence of us, as fans will show through in our voices and cowbells tonight and duirng the next three games of this series. By us showing that the Trop is still “Our House”, even if we are on the skids right now, we are showing confidence in a reversal of fortunes. And what better time to take on those fortunes than against our biggest rival, and the team we beat for our only series win in 2009. I know we will not have to hype up the players too much for the excitement and drama of the new rivarly between these two teams. But if we slack off at all and let the Boston fans get a voice again in our environment, it might be some times before we again reigh supreme in our own house.
” There is a big difference in confidence and conceit” – Johnny Unitas.
I heard those words from Johnny Unitas on the sidelines back in 1987 when the Indianapolis Colts were about to take on the Cleveland Browns in an NFL playoff game. It is so true that sometimes a team can get so caught up in all the hype and fake confidence reigning down on them from outside sources that they can not play to that level, or even compete as a team. We had that problem that day and ended up getting slaughtered 38-21. There is a limit to the confidence and conceit level that both fans and a team can aspire to in a season. Lofty goals and a over abundance of self confidence can ruin even the best of intentions.
But one of the thing I like best about the 2008 and 2009 Rays team is that there is no “superstars” according to the players. that everyone has a rols on this roster and it is their job to fulfill their potential every game. Some nights that is a huge task, but an honest effort is all that Rays Manager Joe Maddon expects from his troops. If they go out there without an agenda or a mission to fulfill personal goals, then this season can turn around and become positive again. But the confidence needs to also flow down from the stands. If we show the positive vibe, then it will filter into that dugout and they will again regain that “killer instinct” that might have been missing so far in 2009.
” Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” - Confucius
How great a quote is that one. It is really a motto that can be adopted by this 2009 squad to lead them towards that common goal again. Seriously here, this season has had its huge pitfalls and traps that could take a lion down for the count. But the resilience of this squad, and their committment to each other and the fan base is superior to the idea of losing again this year. Now by that I mean we know we are going to suffer losses, and sometimes those losses can be either a blow-out, or a last at bat walk-off variety. This past series, we had one of each, and with a sense of resilience, this team can rebound like a rubber band and begin again at home tonight.
My favorite cartoon is still that one of the frog inside the heron’s mouth with his hand thrust outside and holding onto the bird’s throat with the caption: ” Never Give Up!” That is the mentality that this team and the fan have to again take as their personal mantra to reestablish the energy and emotion in Tropicana Field. When Maddon was hired by the Rays in 2006, he wanted to make the Trop. a place where other teams feared coming into and playing, like the New Mexico University Lobo’s Den, which was the first known “Pit”. In 2008, the Rays fans and the team established the Trop as a place where opposing team’s wins come to die. But in 2009, the Rays have almost gotten themselves out of contention to again set the mark by going 2-5 in the first home stand of the year.
“The Bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists” – Japanese Proverb
Through the use of the cowbell and the horns, the Rays fans have annoyed and frustrated oppsoing fans in our house. I have seen some bad behavior from Rays fans, and that will not be tolerated. I will be the first to get in your face if you forget how we got there in 2008. By getting vocal, but staying within respectful boundaries, we can again make this place a destination of defeat. But the crowd has to believe first. The next 6 games might be the true indicator of the possibility of the Rays to adjust and then again take command of their season. Even after 21 games, the team in 2009 is only 2-games off their 2008 pace, but further losses will push that goal to the backside, and the team and the fans do not want that to happen.
“While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die- whether it is our spirit, our creativity, or our glorious uniqueness” – Gilda Radner.
That is the essence of this blog today. I do not want the spirit of everything accomplished last season to die a slow death on the heels of this bad road trip. By redefining our belief in the end goal, by achieving beyond our own expectations, and by yearning to again hear the cheers of gladness from the multitudes, that should be the goal of this short homestand. We have to re-energize the team’s siprit. Reset their barometers to heat up their tempos on the field and in the dugout. This is the time that I miss Jonny Gomes. He was one of the best unoffical cheerleaders on this team in 2008. But it was from his personal belief in the abilities of the 25 guys besides him that he gained that momentum and energy to take on all comers.
That spirit might not been seen right now in the play and actions of this team, but it is still within them. So by getting loud tonight, we can again awaken the dormant juices that make your body quiver and your brain ache. We need to again boost the level to 150 decibels on the noise meter to awaken the fan’s spirit along with the team’s. But most of all, we need the faithful who have been here during the lean years, during the 100 loss seasons, and also some of the newbies who have the desire to support a winner to come out and make some loud noise to awaken the dreams again in each and every person in that stadium. On Thursday night, we need to make Josh Beckett feel uncomfortable on that mound becuase of the distractions around him. We need to make David Ortiz worry about his swing and lose concentration at the plate.
But most of all, we need the noise to be heard as far away as Ferg’s. For this team to rebound and get back on track, it will take more than just the team’s efforts. They need to also feel the vibe and the energy in the stands to recharge their own selves into again believing in the master plan. I, for one will not give up until the end of game number 162. But some are already starting to waiver in their beliefs and desires to follow this team into the darkness knowing that the tunnel will end in the rays of sunshine and light. The 2009 Rays are not one and dones. They are not a one trick ponies, and they are certainly not just “lucky” to have gotten what they secured in 2008.
“The spirit,the will to win and the will to excell are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur.” – Vince Lombardi
The stakes are higher, and the teams around us have rebuilt stronger because of us. For us to falter in our own self worth is the first failure of the 2009 season. This team again has to become united and stand as one for the forces of the league to again take notice and fear the Rays. But it has to also start with us, the fans. For with our voices and our confidence, we can show that this team can count on us for the entire season. By storm or fair weather, the end result of the 2009 could start tonight. I do not know about you, but I would rather lose my voice this weekend fighting the Red Sox cheers than let them have the Trop again as “South Fenway”. So the question is now up to you Rays fans……….It is put up or shut up time? What is your decision, mine is to stand united and voice my support to the heavens for the team that deserves a second chance at the trophy.
“If people do not want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” – Yogi Berra.