Lessons from the World Series champions

In every game there are players who make errors and don’t play well, and that can easily lead to discontent and negativity within the team.

Washington Nationals take to the ball field (photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)
Washington Nationals take to the ball field
(photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)
Citizens and leaders of the State of Israel could learn something from the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals, as this team’s story, mentality and emotional makeup provide a recipe for Israeli success.
The Nationals began the season with a record of 19 wins and 31 losses, the second worst team in the National League, and there were calls for the firing of team president Mike Rizzo and/or team manager Dave Martinez. But the ownership believed in its staff, and the team slowly believed in Martinez’s two key messages: 1) Wake up tomorrow and try go 1-0 with a perfect day, and 2) “Bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.”
The team ignored its horrific start and all the naysayers and focused on winning one game at a time, following its motto of “stay in the fight” all the way to a final record of 93-69 by taking 74 of their last 112 games.
Israel faces so many challenges: we have to deal with constant security threats; many people struggle economically; there are tensions between various populations in the country – especially during this extended election season and the prospect of a third election within a year. But we should not let these challenges get us too down. We should recognize that these are the “bumpy roads,” and if we continue to believe in what Israel can and should be, and waking up every day ready for the fight with a commitment to making the country as perfect as possible, then it can lead to much better times ahead.
The second lesson can be best captured by a moment during the Nationals championship parade. Veteran player Ryan Zimmerman choked up as he talked about how special it had been for him to play in Washington for his entire career, and how much he loves playing on this specific team. His teammates responded by running up to him while yelling “group hug,” and they all gathered around him in a massive team hug. It was instantaneous and natural, demonstrating that the members of the team truly see each other as family and as being there for the other.
In every game there are players who make errors and don’t play well, and that can easily lead to discontent and negativity within the team. It is human nature to focus on the bad and point fingers.
But these Nationals understood that in order for any group to succeed, there must be belief in one another, support for one another, love for one another. And that support and love was evident and certainly necessary to get the team through the hard times, and to win five games in the playoffs that if they had lost would have ended their season.
Israel is in desperate need of this unity, the value of loving and supporting one another instead of focusing on our differences and what we see as wrong and bad with our country.
FINALLY, THESE World Series champions knew how to laugh, enjoy, have a good time and not take themselves too seriously. The team anthem was “Baby Shark,” a children’s song that had players using their hands to make the symbol for the baby shark if they hit a single, mommy shark if they hit a double, and grandpa shark if they hit a triple. Their stadium filled with tens of thousands of adults who would make the motions to the song. When a player hit a home run, they were surrounded by their teammates in the dugout and had to do a dance.
Two players, Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick, love cars, so whenever one of them hit a home run, they returned to the dugout where they sat and pretended like they were driving race cars. Being loose and having fun were two important contributing factors to waking up each day seeking perfection and team unity.
Life is difficult. This is all the more so with all the challenges facing the State of Israel and its citizens. But if we take things too seriously, and are always wound up thinking and talking about those issues, we lose the ability to enjoy the remarkable times in which we are living. Yes, the security situation is not simple. Yes, Israelis have a hard time finishing the month. Yes, there are real issues of religion and state that must be addressed. But we are living in a Jewish state, having returned to our homeland after 2,000 years of exile. Our ancestors would have given up a lot to experience what we have in Israel today.
So let’s enjoy it. Let’s wake up every day with a smile, recognizing how blessed we are. And with that attitude, let’s work to make each day great and do whatever we can to improve the state and to generate unity.
If Israel and Israelis will adapt the approach of the 2019 Washington Nationals, there is no doubt that we, like the Nationals, will continue to defy the odds and experience greater success than we could ever imagine.
So let’s get started. Let’s put aside the past, stay in the fight, and go 1-0 today.
The writer served as a member of the 19th Knesset.