Over the last century, tens of thousands of major league baseball games have been played, and yet this past week we witnessed only the 18th "perfect game" in history.
A pitcher for my hometown Chicago White Sox retired all 27 batters in order; no hits, no walks, no errors. So rare and celebrated is this feat that the president (a proclaimed Sox fan) called the pitcher to personally congratulate him.
But this got me thinking: really, what is all the hoopla about?! Was it truly a "perfect" game? There were some poor pitches, some hard hit balls, and he actually needed a great play in the outfield to get through it. So why is it perfect?
The Rebbe once explained to a bar mitzvah boy that baseball is a lot like life. There is a field (your heart) and two teams (the good and evil inclinations) equipped with similar resources. Both teams are each fiercely competitive—and, at every stage in life, there can only be one winner.
Using this analogy, the perfect game takes on additional meaning. For if the pitcher gets one batter out, or even if he pitches a perfect inning, three up and three down, it's not considered a big deal. Fame and glory come when a pitcher succeeds at repeating that simple formula multiple times.
And a perfect game is not devoid of challenge; rather it reflects a consistent pattern of overcoming small battles. Success cannot be savored while the game is in progress, because new challenges immediately appear. The pitcher gets one out and right away the next batter steps in and poses a fresh challenge. This new opponent has been studying the pitcher and knows how he defeated his teammate, and thus he devises a new strategy. The pitcher's past successes don't get him any "credits" towards his next battle. And then fatigue sets in, adding to the challenge...
And you can be sure that the twenty-seventh batter was absolutely intent on spoiling the perfect game. His team's failure to get on base up to that point only served to further motivate him; he conceded nothing to the pitcher.
And so a "perfect" life is so much like a perfect game. Every day is filled with individual battles. Independently, each one seems routine and surmountable—it's the totality of them that so intimidates. But thankfully we're not in it alone. We have friends and support systems that will go all out to help us achieve our goal. And counting on them for help doesn't diminish from our "perfection."
And even when less than perfect in the process – maybe we go 3-0 on a hitter – we can still win the battle.
The key is to address the challenges in bite size pieces, one batter at a time.
So let's just rear back and fire!