Thoughts from Dr. Joe: On any given day, anyone can win

 Clayton Kershaw
Columnist Joe Puglia writes on the courage of Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw after his team’s loss to the Nationals in the National League Division series during which Kershaw gave up back-to-back home runs.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Starbucks off of Gould is the Constantinople of La Cañada. If you want to take the pulse of this town, go there for your morning coffee. The day after Howie Kendrick of the Nationals cleared the bases with a grand slam home run, the buzz in Starbucks attempted to find a rational reason as to how the Dodgers could have possibly lost to the Nationals. I can understand that because La Cañada is a true-blue Dodger town.

I was perched at the counter, finishing my final edits to a book and minding my own business while patrons waiting for their morning coffee came to vent about the loss. I’m not sure why I was singled out, but maybe it was because I was sitting adjacent to where customers pick up their coffee. Regardless, I’m a Yankee fan.

I heard nearly every excuse possible, except no one blamed Trump. As I listened, all I could think of was the witticisms of Sister Audrey, my philosophy professor: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts every day would be Christmas.”

The Los Angles Times ran a piece, “Dodger Dugout: There’s a whole list of people to blame.” If that’s not hubris, then I don’t know what is.


For crying out loud, baseball is a game that produces both winners and losers. If it was so certain that the Dodgers should have beaten the Nationals, then why did they even play the game?

The arrogance of expecting a Dodger victory disrespects the Washington Nationals as a very good team. It negates what I believe to be the beauty of sports, that on any given day, anyone can win.

Clayton Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner in baseball, was vilified. Cody Bellinger, the Dodger’s best hitter, was ridiculed. Manager Dave Roberts, who led the team to an unprecedented 106 victories, was scorned for putting Kershaw into the game to relieve. You go with the guy who got you there.

The Dodgers are a great team, and they deserve far better than what they received. How do you make sense of the fans who threw their Kershaw jerseys onto the field?


A personal reflection here: In 1965, I was favored to win the quarter-finals of the lightweight division of the Golden Gloves boxing tournament. I was fighting Red Barsone, and although he had never lost a fight, I was favored because I was faster and the more skilled fighter. Red was as slow as molasses, but if he hit you, he’d put you in the nickel seats.

I had trained four years and believed the talk on the block — that I would beat Red and go all the way. In the third and last round I was far ahead on points; regardless, I attacked Red with a flurry. His knees buckled. Instead of retreating into the interior of the ring, I moved in to be the first to put Red Barsone on the canvas. With his shoulder, he turned me into the ropes and TKO’d (technical knockout) me in seconds.

After the Dodgers elimination in the playoffs, I thought of that cold February evening in 1965 at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. The Greeks would have called my affliction “hubris” and that’s true of the Dodgers — the organization and some of the fans.

After losing to Red, I never boxed again. Regardless, I learned a valuable lesson: blame doesn’t empower you. The more you talk about it and analyze it, the more you remain stuck in the mire of defeat.

We should remember Clayton Kershaw’s remarks after the game: “Nothing I can do about it right now. It’s a terrible feeling. But I’m not going to hang my head. I’m going to be here next year, try and do the same thing, hopefully, try and do it every single year.”

Now that’s courageous, and that’s what we should be talking about.

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