Our personal heroes don’t have to be athletes

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TREENA MIELKE / On The Other Side

The theatre was darkened, but the movie had not yet started, attesting to the fact that we were not late and miracles really do happen.

I put my drink in one of those little drink slot things and settled down in my seat with my absolutely, wonderfully delicious popcorn that smelled of movies and theatres and escape, and then breathed a happy sigh.

I absolutely refused to dwell on the fact that two small bags of popcorn and two Diet Cokes absolutely shredded a $20 bill into nothing more than small change, and chose instead to enjoy the moment.

I love movies.

The movie, as it turned out was a sports story, which my non-athletic, can’t-get-off-the-couch self really loves because I am always inspired by them to do better, be better, run faster, harder and never give up.

And, as it turned out, I was so inspired again.

Moneyball, as it unfolds, is about the general manger of a baseball team and a kid who graduated from Yale with a degree in economics. This unlikely pair took a losing baseball team to a 20-game winning streak in one season. The team, however, lost the World Series, which, of course, was general manager’s dream and would have been the perfect ending and another testimonial to the fact “miracles happen.”

I munch my popcorn slowly, thinking “Of course they’ll win the World Series,” already feeling good and excited because of the happy ending I had predicted.

But, as in John Lennon’s famous quotation, “Life is what happens when you make other plans,” the guy never did get his team to win the World Series.

The GM, who happened to be portrayed by Brad Pitt, could not bring his emotional self to rise above the final defeat. I felt the defeat right along with him, and put my popcorn down dejectedly, feeling too depressed to munch anymore.

“I hate it when my team loses, even if it is only a movie.”

In the end, the Harvard economics guy, in an effort to boost the GM’s morale, shows him a clip of one the players struggling to get to first base and being afraid to leave it when he had actually hit a home run.

It was, of course, a metaphor, but the point was the GM had really hit a home run because he proved you didn’t need mega bucks to produce a winning team. And, at least in the movie, he changed the way scouts and GM picked their teams forever.

And then it was over.

The lights flashed on, people left their seats, brushed the popcorn off their coats (maybe that was just me), filed out of the theatre and went home.

In another time and another place, I would have gone home, picked up the phone and called my brothers to talk about that movie.

My brothers were my very own personal sports commentators. In my world, ever since I was old enough to know anything about anything, my brothers were there to fill in the gaps.

They told me stuff. They told me Toronto Maple Leafs was the best hockey team in the world and I believed them. I still do.

They knew stats and records and facts about hockey and baseball since the beginning of time .

And they knew everything about baseball; how to steal, how to bunt, how to slide, read the infield and the outfield, how to win and, more importantly, how to lose.

In my lifetime, I never really needed any sports heroes who played for the big leagues, because, in my mind, I already had my brothers.

And that was enough.

My brothers both died before seeing Toronto Maple Leafs win another Stanley Cup or their favourite baseball team win the World Series.

They died within 19 months of each other, leaving me, their little sister in complete, absolute shock.

And sometimes, for no reason other than just because I am still here and they are not, an incredible sadness threatens to suffocate and kill any little positive thoughts that are struggling to exist inside my head.

I think about the movie and the guy who actually hit a home run, but, didn’t know it, so he wouldn’t leave first.

And, I find myself smiling, as in my mind, I call my brother.

And I swear just for an instant I can almost hear him chuckling. He would light a cigarette and lean back in his chair and say, “He hit a home run and he didn’t know? Wow! Well when I hit a home run, I knew it. I sure did. Did I ever tell you about the time we played in Great Chief Park under the lights?”

I smile again!

And so, one more time, I put the memories away and get on with the business of living, but still I think about the movie.

And I decide that, in the game of life, I, who never was a really strong hitter, usually scrambling just to make it to first, did actually score a home run because, once, for a very short time, I had these two brothers who without even trying, gave me something everyone loves.

Heroes: grassroots, every day, ordinary heroes!

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