My friend, the former Cubs left fielder and Phillies broadcaster Gary Matthews used to have a saying in the clubhouse that carried onto the playing field… no high fives in the early innings. “The Sarge” refused to start the celebration too soon. You see, he was a veteran who had seen many a lead fall by the wayside in the late innings with two out in the 9th inning. We easily fall victim to the trap ourselves once in a while, accepting congratulations before we have actually won the prize.
We see it more and more these days with the multiple levels of playoff rounds in post-season baseball and the dousing with champagne and the players with goggles, et al. I want to holler to the TV, “Hey, you haven’t won it yet!” as the teams go wild after just “getting there.” Author Carol Man wrote about the great golfer Arnold Palmer in the book 19th Hole. Arnie was cruising along with the lead at Augusta National Golf Club with the lead in the Masters in 1961 with a 1-stroke lead. He took a nice shot off the tee and was only a few strokes away from slipping on the green blazer when he spotted an old friend in the fairway crowd known as “Arnie’s Army.” His friend extended his hand and said “Congratulations Arnie,” and no sooner than he accepted the handshake, he knew he had made a mistake. His focus was lost. The next shot was in the sand. The following chip shot sailed over the green. To top it off, he missed a crucial putt, and the Masters was lost. Palmer said, “You don’t forget a mistake like that, but you do learn from it and become determined not to do it again.” Wait for the moment. You’ll know when it’s time to high five.