Why I believe in a Democratic comeback

I learned from years of competitive sports that the best time to beat the other side is when they're gloating

Topics: 2010 Elections, Democratic Party,

Why I believe in a Democratic comeback

There is nothing as sweet as a comeback, when you are down and out, about to lose, and out of time. The almost certain victors are already in full gloat mode, and that’s why the rest of us feel lower than a gopher hole, as Molly Ivins said to me after Bush v. Gore. Nothing you try seems to work. But as I experienced dozens of times in tennis matches as a youth, if you don’t give up, sometimes there’s a shift under your feet, and you win one unexpected point, and then another, and somehow, miraculously, you pull ahead.

I’m not thinking of the San Francisco Giants here, although I have been following them with love and a sick stomach for most of my 56 years. This year they are almost certainly going to the Series, a great and unique team. Yet some of my earliest memories are of coming into the kitchen of the small coffee-colored house we rented in the late ’50s, to find my parents and older brother seated around the radio, with their arms folded across their stomachs. They’d be doubled over with worry as the Giants seemed poised once again to throw away victory, blowing a comeback at the last possible minute.

I’m not thinking about how much being a lifelong Giants fan is like having been a lifelong Democrat — they are both such beautiful teams, from the Willies May and McCovey in that coffee-colored house, to Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval; from Adlai Stevenson to Lynn Woolsey and Russ Feingold. They have taught me that when it comes to playoff games and midterm elections, you can’t let your hopes get too high — but of course you do, and once again, the Giants or the Democrats break your heart — or totally, hilariously kick butt.

The Giants are usually described as rag tag, kind of a great garage sale team, and the Democrats are described as the Mommies to the Republican Daddies; and everyone hates the mommies, but wait, wait — I didn’t intend to get into the pathos and thrill of being a Democratic Giants fan. There is a certain delusional nobility in the wild ride.

You Might Also Like

And I’m not even thinking of a recent discussion I had with my Sunday School kids, about how when we as individuals or nations get so terribly lost, we have prophets to call us back. The prophets aren’t like the guys on Christian radio, predicting the end of the world for sometime next Thursday, right after lunch. They are truth tellers, lights, Dr. King or Nelson Mandela, calling us back to decency, sanity, to each person being treated exactly the same.

All I started out to say was that I remember so many matches I played as a junior tennis star, when I got off to a bad start, and was losing big time to someone I either should have been able to beat, or needed to beat to keep up my ranking. My opponent was frequently an awful arrogant, stupid person, which I say without judgment. It was simple reality — most competitive tennis players in my day were privileged, spoiled, entitled and white. Also, many of them were beautiful, fit, tan and of good stock — great big hair and white teeth and long legs. Then there were the rest of us.

Future Democrats, and Giants fans.

Anyway, you’d be losing by a set and a service break, say 6-3, 4-1, to an athlete whose practice partner has come to watch her, and whose father was hiding behind a bush nearby, giving her hand signals (whereas your pathetic Giants-and-Adlai-Stevenson-fan father has such bad nerves that he couldn’t even watch you play, even when you were in the finals). Your stomach ached, but you held serve, 4-2. Then, about to serve for 5-2, your opponent got a little cocky, began wondering who was winning the match over on court 12, which would be her next opponent on the march to the finals. And so your opponent double-faulted. Love-15. And because you had nothing to lose, and the game was surely over, and you did not have much of a chance, let alone great hair, long legs and braces on your future perfect white choppers, you secretly got back in the game. You secretly dared to hope.

When your nonplussed opponent crossed over to ace you from the backhand side, you’d nick one of your stealth serial killer moves with your eyes looking away quickly. Then she caught your eye as she aimed at a spot on your service court. You flicked your eyes over to the left, and it threw her. She served long, and her second serve is weak, and you suddenly have the advantage, because you have nothing to lose. And you rallied hard for, and eventually won the point.

Now it’s love-30, and your opponent starts to fall apart. Her nerves fail her, and her left arm on the next toss is as herky-jerky as a tennis ball machine, and she actually has to change down the toss to hit it, or do it over. She’s reduced to pushing in her serve, and you make winners. And she begins to come apart like a two-dollar watch. She’s grinding down those teeth, and her father is losing his mind in the hydrangeas, signaling for her either to serve as hard as she can, or smash in your head at the net. You can’t tell, but he’s furious. Oh, well. Ha ha, as we Christians like to say.

I won a lot of matches when there was almost no hope, and even less time, and it always started with winning one point here, and one point there. It always depended on not giving up, on getting my focus and courage back. It was the greatest feeling on earth, and, I imagine, it would still be so today, to take such a risk, and God only knows, maybe prevail.

Anne Lamott's new book, "Small Victories," is available now.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>