Thursday, October 30, 2008

Redemption: The Lessons Brad Lidge Can Teach Us All

I've never been happier for a professional athlete than I am for Brad Lidge.

I'll never forget the day Lidge was traded to the Phillies for five prospects. I called every Astros fan I knew and started to celebrate like he did tonight. Dad was one of the first people to put me in my place, and reminded me, "He handled everything with class. He's a stand-up guy."

I was the first to remind him, "Yeah, but he sucked and cost the Astros the World Series and the 2006 NL Central title."

And we were both right to an extent. Lidge thanked all his teammates profusely, praised the most difficult fans in America as the best in the world, and lastly thanked Jesus for bringing him to this moment. Normally when an athlete thanks God, it always seems contrived and almost silly. But not here. Considering that Lidge went through Hell after That Night, it only seeemed appropriate to thank the Savior for delivering him, and the city of Philadelphia, to the 2008 World Series Championship.

He won with absolute grace and class, not to mention with sheer dominance, so yes, Dad was completely correct on his point. But the guy we saw this season closing games in a Phillies uniform wasn't the Brad Lidge we knew during the 2005 playoffs, nor was it the guy we saw throughout the 2006 or 2007 seasons. This was 2004 Brad Lidge, a closer in complete command of his slider, someone so dominant all he was missing was a leather catsuit and a whip.

He was perfect this season. Lidge was 41 for 41 in save opportunities and had a 0.00 ERA in the postseason. He was the valedictorian of closers this year, even in light of Francisco Rodriguez and his record-setting accomplishments this year. If Curt Hennig were alive today, he'd probably have to relinquish his nickhame because 2008 Brad Lidge was Mr. Perfect.

Without question, though, this Brad Lidge--the old Brad Lidge--could not have been rediscovered by staying in Houston. In a way, Lidge's departure from Houston was like the classic breakup situation. Sometimes, two people have to move on from each other. The relationship simply cannot continue because the two people are bringing each other down, not building one another up. And that's when it has to end, amicably and with respect.

But make no mistake. The relationship has to end.

Lidge continued to struggle in Houston, seemingly unable to shake his 2005 playoff demons. Houston fans and management alike grew increasingly frustrated watching Lidge struggle against the likes of Xavier Nady and his ilk. It was a parting that had to happen for both parties to find their collective peace.

And peace Brad Lidge has now. He has successfully cast aside That Night and every other struggle that he had as a Houston Astro. The last few years, though, Astros fans have hung on to those same bitter memories and gave them a haunting embrace. I hope tonight helps bring closure to the city of Houston and That Night so that we can pursue something better than disappointment.

We must pursue hope, not defeat. We must embrace victory, not loss. We mustn't look at Brad Lidge and ask "Why couldn't you do that for Us?" Instead, we must look to Brad Lidge as an example of what it is like to lose, but to never give up faith in ourselves.

Last of all, we can't wallow in pity. We must pursue excellence in our life's journeys, and thank God for each and every opportunity that we are given to succeed. No matter where it is, no matter what we've done, redemption awaits us all.

Brad Lidge's redemption was waiting for him at the bottom of a joyous dogpile on a pitching mound in Philadelphia. On the whole, I'm guessing there was no place he'd rather be.

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