The month of September is full of new beginning and surprises. The start of the school year brings all sorts of new challenges and ideas. The Yomim Noraim or High Holidays mark the start of the Jewish new year. This is a time where our slates are wiped clean and we are given the chance to start off with clean records. During this time of year, anything is possible.
Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland in the eighties, I lived a pretty ordinary life for a Jewish day school student. During this time of year, I was usually dreading the return to school. Most of my summers were spent working to earn money for those items important to every Jewish teen. Car insurance, CD’s (not the kind at the bank), and of course tickets to go see the Orioles. You see, for almost every Jewish teen living in Baltimore, the Orioles were an important part of our lives.
In the eighties, the team usually finished in their usual fourth or fifth place divisional slot and would spend September playing the role of the spoilers. The year of 1988 was especially memorable but for the wrong reasons. That was the year that the O’s started the season 0 and 21, a record that still stands today as the worst opening in professional baseball. Yet, through it all Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, and the rest of the greats remained in our hearts and our minds.
Then, in the nineties something new started happening. The team actually became the team to beet in their division. In 1995 and 1996 the O’s finished second which was quite a feat. Then in 1997, the team went wire to wire and held on to first place the entire season. While they were eliminated in the playoffs, this was quite an accomplishment for a team that only a few years earlier could not get higher than third place.
So here we are fifteen years later. September still has not changed for most middle and high school students. Still present are the same dreaded first days of school wondering which math class we will get stuck in. But, September also marks the opportunity to start with a clean record and a positive outlook. Just take a look at this year’s Baltimore Orioles. After fifteen plus losing seasons, the team was projected to finish 4th in this year’s AL East division. No pitching, and only minimal hitting were not going to get this team past the Yankees. But, something surprising has happened. As of today, the Orioles are only one game out of first place! They still don’t have the best hitting or pitching in the league, but by working as a team and believing that anything is possible, the O’s have proven their critics wrong. We’ll see in the next few weeks how far they can take this dream, but we do know that anything is possible.
Students, the same is true for you guys. It is easy to go into a new school year with the same pessimism and bleak outlook as in past years. Sure, maybe you didn’t do so well in some classes last year. Or, maybe your best friends are no longer at your school. This however is a new year, so take advantage of the chance to start off strong.
No one in baseball would have ever picked the Orioles to be contending for first place in the last month of the season. But, by using their talents and tools they have surprised us all. You can do the same!