As a lifelong baseball fan, it had been a dream to see my team play in a World Series. Knowing this dream and being a huge fan herself, my Mom surprised me and bought us two tickets to see our Nationals play the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last October.
I’ve been to plenty of baseball games in my life, but I’ve never felt such energy from a crowd like this. This was one of those, “you can feel the electricity in the air” type of events. It seemed like everyone was in a good mood, even with the hometown Nats having lost the last two games of the Series. As my Mom and I walked around the concourse buying souvenirs and food, it was a joy just to feel and be a part of such a positive collective experience (something I certainly miss as we continue to social distance during this pandemic).
After taking in the atmosphere around the concourse and vendors, we eventually made our way to our seats in right field. Settling in with food and beer, we met our neighbors for the game. I surveyed the group and decided on some names I would use to identify my new friends in Section 141.
Behind us, there was “Big Dude with an Aggressive High Five.”
To our left, there was “LSU Football Fan.”
Next to “LSU Football Fan”, there was “Clemson Football Family.” (Yes, the only people wearing LSU and Clemson Tiger football gear in the entire stadium, randomly sat next to each other at a World Series game).
In front of us and towards the right was “Nats Dad” and Nats Dad Jr” as both of them looked nearly identical in their matching Max Scherzer jerseys.
In front and towards the left of us was “Singular Astros Fan Who Wouldn’t Shut the F*ck Up Every Time the Astros Did Something Good.” I’m sure he was a nice guy in “real life” and he did surprisingly settle down after downing a couple Stella Artois.
Immediately in front of me was “No Hat Nats Guy” as he was one of the few fans in our entire section not wearing a hat.
Even with “Astros Fan”, I felt at home and excited to be spending 9 innings with my fellow baseball aficionados. As the game went on, “No Hat Nats Guy,” became my favorite and I appreciated his generous tipping towards “Beer Man”, his views on the game, and most of all his gentle ribbing of “Astros Fan.” By the time the 3rd inning came around, and after sharing some conversation, I felt comfortable enough to call Mr. “No Hat Nats Guy” my friend.
Anyone who has been to Nats Park in Washington DC knows that in between the third inning (after the away team has batted), the Nats pay tribute to United States service members who are in attendance at the game. This game was no different and with the PA announcer imploring us to “stand up and wave our caps” for the troops, the crowd burst into roaring approval. However, this was no ordinary “Salute the Troops” 3rd inning at Nats Park. This was the first game since 1933 that a US President would attend a World Series in the Nation’s Capital.
As we continued to cheer the troops, the PA announcer then added, “please continue standing and welcome the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.” Before the PA announcer could finish his remarks, the positive, caring, joyous electricity of the game was quickly sucked out of the stadium. In its place were the sounds of:
Knowing that President Trump was going to be in attendance, I was ready.
I was ready to provide him with the same vitriol, anger, disgust, venom, harassment and general hatred I had judged he gives to anyone who doesn’t see the world the same way he does. Overall, I was ready to give him a taste of his own medicine. With that readiness, I started yelling at the top of my lungs:
“BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” But after 3 seconds or so of boo’ing, I stopped.
I stopped, because I noticed “No Hat Nats Guy” in front of me. Mr. No Hat was holding his hands over his head and clapping for the President.
Seeing this, my body filled with sadness, disappointment, and shame. Lots and lots of shame, to be exact.
Wanting comfort, I did what every man does when they feel like a sad little boy, I looked at my Mom next to me. As the chorus of “booos” continued around us, my Mom (who had not booed) looked at me with a shared sense of sadness for the situation. Whereas seconds earlier, Washington Nationals and Houston Astros fans alike watched a World Series baseball game in relative harmony, the stadium was now divided and filled with palpable anger.
Donald Trump did not fill that stadium with anger, people like me did. I chose to use my voice and energy to send him all the ill will I could muster. I chose to send him anger. As a collective voice, there’s a good chance that President Trump did recognize the vitriol that was expressed to him that day. And what good did it do? Did my “boos” impart a more passionate, loving, and understanding approach from the President? No, of course not.
What my “boos” did do, was quickly divide Section 141 into those who supported the president and those who did not. While my “boos” were directed at the President, the fire landed on those around me and ultimately brought division. Maybe it was just me, but everything felt different after that 3rd inning.
Needless to say, “No Hat Nats Guy” and I were no longer “friends.” I tried a couple of times to start up a conversation, but he wasn’t having it, and I don’t blame him. The Nats played pretty terrible for the next 6 innings and ultimately lost the game, but for me, it wasn’t their play that put a dull icky feeling over the game, it was the anger that was generated during the 3rd inning.
I will probably never know the truth as to how President Trump felt about my boos that day, but there’s one truth I do know. Those boos hurt me. They hurt me, because that’s what anger does. When anger subsides, what’s left isn’t joy and happiness, what’s left is emptiness and sadness.
Instead of seeing my Nats win with my incredible Mom, I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say I took part in and contributed towards humanity losing that day. In my view, there’s been a lot of “L’s” put in humanity’s loss column recently. To get back to our winning ways, I judge we need more compassion, empathy, and love. Not for the party, race, region, or team that we side with – there’s plenty of love for the self-identified “home team.” What we need is more love for those who we see as the other, the “away team.”
For the past year, I’ve been working to love the man I booed at the World Series. I’m not going to lie, there have been plenty of times when this love affair is less “happily ever after” and more “nightmare on elm street.” When I fail and my inner Darth Vader makes an appearance, I have found the anger can eat away at me for minutes, hours and even days before I can truly return my emotions to a more balanced and neutral state. Once again, did the President feel this anger? No, the only people who felt this were my family, friends, and others in my sphere of influence.
However, there have been many times when after reading about something I vehemently disagree with, and before the negative emotions boil over, I’ve been able to fill my awareness with compassion and empathy for the President. When I succeed at this, my body becomes lighter, the pit in my stomach is removed and I can quickly move on to the next goal or task for the day. Ultimately, this is how I want to spend my time – aware, light, and at ease.
I used to think it was cheesy, not masculine, or plain silly to talk about “love.” Today, I know it holds the key to many of my problems.
Whether you support the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals or not…
Whether you agree with the views expressed in this blog or not…
Whether you vote for the same candidate for President as me or not…
I’ll be loving you.
Author Bio: Dan started Fired and Free in 2017, to provide his “truth” after being fired as CEO of the company he started and led. After a diverse 17-year career in management consulting and entrepreneurship, Dan now leads 3Sixty Leadership, where he provides coaching and consulting to business owners with 5 to 500 employees, helping them to work “on” their business not “in” their business.