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Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

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Baseball is the greatest sport for the very reason its detractors so often cite when knocking it: pace. Hockey and basketball are played at a smooth flow, and football progresses in a lurching march. Baseball conducts itself novelistically, scenes building into chapters building into multilayered epics. The moments when the ball is in play are for the men on the field, but the moments in between are for the fans. After each at-bat and before every pitch, we are allowed the space to imagine all the scenarios that could ensue. From the moment Cleveland’s Rajai Davis stepped into the batter’s box to face the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of this year’s World Series, fans had just under three minutes to run through the possibilities. A home run was doubtless among the first images that popped into our heads, but that dream was quickly shoved aside by everyone over the age of 13, too wise or too cynical to dream that the light-hitting Davis (55 homers in an 11-year career as he dug in in the bottom of the eighth) might park one against the fearsome Chapman. A bounce-out or a strikeout? Sure. A single? Many of us would have taken it. But when Davis reached down and golfed a screamer just inside the foul pole in left field to tie the game? When that was the play that landed on the roulette wheel of fretful guesswork that spun around in our heads? It was jarring in the way only baseball can be. The Cubs would end up winning the game and the championship, but it was the Indians and Davis who would solidify Game 7 as the best we’ve ever seen.

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Strange isn’t it: each man’s life touches so many other lives, when he isn’t around it leaves an awful hole.

~George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life

Particularly fitting for today, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.