I need you to do something for me:
Stop reading this for three seconds and think about what you consider the best victory in sports history.
OK. Welcome back. What’d you come up with?
Perhaps it’s the Miracle on Ice when the amateur American hockey team upset the highly favored Russian team for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Or is it the “Shot Heard ’Round the World” when Bobby Thompson crushed a walk-off home run in 1951 to lift the New York Giants over the Brooklyn Dodgers for the National League Pennant.
Hmmmm … An injured Kerri Strug sticking her vault to help propel the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team to the gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics? The 1983 NCAA Tournament when Coach Jim Valvano led his North Carolina State Wolfpack past the Houston Cougars to an improbable championship? Doug Flutie’s legendary “Hail Mary” pass that secured Boston College’s upset over Miami?
Notice how in all these situations – and I imagine yours as well – they each involve a person or a team overcoming tremendous odds and challenges and rising to glory. And these are the moments we remember.
For me it’s Kirk Gibson’s home run in the bottom of the 9th in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Ask any baseball fan, and they likely can tell you exactly what happened in this historic game between Gibson’s Los Angeles Dodgers and the highly favored Oakland Athletics.
Gibson was a champion that night. Battling a leg injury – he wasn’t even in the line-up going into the game – and yet Manager Tommy Lasorda called him in from the locker room to face the legendary closer Dennis Eckersley. It never should have happened, but Gibson smacked a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th to lead the Dodgers to the victory that propelled them to an eventual World Series title.
Aren’t these the moments that inspire us? Make us believe that anything is possible?
Instead of looking at all the reasons why they weren’t going to win (none of them said, “We’re trailing and the game is almost over,” “Our opponent is better physically,” “Everyone else thinks the other team is going to win,”We’re battling injuries.”), they put up a fight and gave it their all because they believed there always is the potential for an upset. A miracle.
I always have carried this feeling of competitive hope throughout my life with Multiple Sclerosis. Through the good. The bad. The ugly.
It’s a competition: ME vs. MS.
On paper MS has me beat. After all, it’s a chronic, progressive disease. According to the National MS Society, “MS can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness and more. These problems may be permanent or may come and go.”
But I never dwell on all the reasons why it looks like MS has me beat. Each day I put up a fight and give it everything I’ve got because I believe there always is the potential for the upsets. My miracle.
As a competition, I attack MS with the sense that I am the outmatched underdog, just like the 1980 U.S Hockey Team and1983 N.C. State Wolfpack, the trailing 1961 New York Giants and 1984 Boston College Eagles as well as the injured Kerri Strug and Kirk Gibson.
Many days I have successes in my competition. I get out of bed. I go to work. I run. I live my life with Jennifer. Still, most days I lose some of the battles. I drop things. I stumble. I’ve fallen. I easily get fatigued.
But even on my worst days, I take pride in the reality that with everything MS threw at me, I didn’t just stand there looking at it. I went down swinging.
I pray that that we all continue to have the courage and strength each day to step up to the plate and be champions in our respective fights with MS.
This essay is dedicated to Judy Williams, who provides us daily pep talks and reflections on her blog Peace be With You on the MS Journey.