Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life Lessons From Matt Capps

[Portions of this post were mentioned in "Matt Capps: An All-Around All-Star" for We Love DC.]

Photo by Cheryl Nichols/Nationals News Network

It's easy to forget that professional athletes are regular people in disguise. In some ways, they get to have all the fun all for signing a contract stating: "You are now the best of the best in a particular crop of others who we've deemed worthy. For this we will provide you with a hefty salary. In return, all we ask is that you accept the fact that you are now, and forever, a public figure no matter if that is what you want or not."

Until this week, Lebron James was among the crop of individuals American's have deemed worthy of calling "the best" and worth spotlighting via every news outlet imaginable. Others before him include Michael Jordan, Ernie Banks, Nolan Ryan, Michael Phelps, Reggie Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Brett Favre, Walter Peyton, and many more.

There are lessons to be learned from the laundry list of professional athletes who make more money than most of us will ever accumulate in our lifetime all for being really really good at a sport that for the majority of American's remains something we did with our time after school as a kid. Extra curricular activities aside, the men (and women for that matter) who put themselves out there into the public sphere for the love of the game are still just as human as any one of us.

Matt Capps is a man we could all learn a lesson from.

And to think, just one year ago Capps was regarded by his team at the time as being on the outs of his favorite game to play.

Adam Kilgore's article in the Washington Post regarding Capps and his father.

There was a revealing piece, compliments of Nationals beat writer Adam Kilgore, in Sunday's Washington Post shedding light on the importance of Capps making his first All-Star Game appearance of his career this Tuesday.

Before this piece, it was a known fact that Capps lost his father whom he was very close with last October. To gloss over this part of Capps' life when thinking about the context in which it lies would be a mistake.

Capps continues to post stellar numbers as the Washington Nationals' closer, but it's the rough outings in which the game's outcome doesn't go his way where fans could easily get upset and begin raining on his parade.

A professional athlete's career depends on performance, but what happens when occurrences in one's personal life begin to take a slight toll on a players performance level.

For Matt Capps this is not the case. His personal life is at the core of his personal motivation no matter the outcome of the game on a daily basis.

This is why there are lessons to be learned from Capps.

So what's the lesson? As someone who lost their father a year and a half ago I can attest to the fact that all you want to do is break down. Your life feels stunted. To continue living your life without your go-to person available on the other end of a phone call leaves a hole in your heart. But no matter how big that hole is, you don't let it defeat you. In essence, you have to do that person's work for them now that they're no longer with you.

my dad and me...yeah yeah
My father and myself, June 2005 at RFK Staidum for my first Nationals game.

I still hear my father's voice in my head on the daily even though we haven't had an actual conversation since about January 15, 2009. I didn't let his death defeat me, I utilized it as a tool and source of further motivation. So does Matt Capps.

Capps spoke to his father every day over the phone, often times more than once according to Kilgore's article "All that's missing is his father". His father's absence hits him the most at his most joyful moments Kilgore wrote. All Capps wanted to do after being named to the the first All-Star team in his professional career was call his dad, but he couldn't.

Capps will join baseballs biggest names of the modern era Tuesday for the mid-summer classic in Anaheim, California.

"You learn a lot about yourself as a person, as an athlete, through your failures," Capps told Kilgore. "It's easy to play this game when you're good, you're pitching well, you're playing well. You really learn about how much you love the game, how much it means to you, when you're fighting through those hard times."

"It's part of life," Capps said. "I'm moving forward and doing what I want to do. That would make him proud to know. By going out and playing and working hard off the field, preparing every day, that's the best way of remembering and representing the name that I carry."

Imagine going into a work each day with thousands of people watching, coaches breathing down your neck, and media outlets digging for quotes. None of these things are necessarily bad, but it sure doesn't make life much of a cake walk.

Matt Capps continues to go into work everyday, despite his heartbreak, and hones his pitching as best as he can. That's all he can do. He, like all of us, is human after all.

In this era of human self-involvement and narcissism seen in sports (cough cough ... LeBron James ... cough cough), a lot of these "feel-good" human interest life lessons get lost in the world of sports.

Here's to Matt Capps and his touching story behind why he plays the way he does for the Washington Nationals. Here, here.

Pictured: Matt Capps, myself, and Craig Stammen at Nats FanFest 2010 at Nationals Park.

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