A Lesson For All Americans From the Tampa Bay Rays

October 22, 2008

Tampa Bay RaysIn these tough, and soon to get tougher, economic times, we could all take a lesson from the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. Against all the odds, they beat last year’s World Champion Boston Red Sox to win the American League Championship and advance to the World Series.

The Rays accomplished this while having the lowest team payroll in the American League. The third place Yankees team payroll is five times the size of the Rays, and the last place Detroit Tigers have a payroll three times the size of the Rays. There are no superstars on the Rays of the caliber of Alex Rodriguez or David Ortiz (whose combined annual salaries almost exceed the entire Rays roster), just rookies, like Evan Longoria and David Price.

How did they do it? By sacrificing personal goals for team goals, by all pitching in and concentrating on the job at hand, rather than bemoaning their low payroll or second class stadium. Manager Joe Maddon preached “9=8” all season, meaning that if nine players on the field all worked together, they could be one of the eight teams making the postseason playoffs. Now, it’s “9=2.”

America faces some real economic challenges in the next few years. All the economic signs point to a prolonged recession, higher prices and higher unemployment. The federal budget is going to skyrocket with all of the bailouts and the infusion of federal money into our financial systems. Republican or Democrat, we all are going to have to sacrifice something to see us through these times.

“Sacrifice.” That’s not a word you’ve heard very often in the past several years, unless we were referring to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somehow we were going to fight foreign wars, improve our national security, buy newer and bigger homes and cars, and fuel our consumption economy, while saving fewer dollars. The only “sacrifices” we were called upon to make were to our civil liberties, not our economic lives.

That all caught up with us, and now we worry about market crashes and bank failures. But Americans really shine when their backs are to the wall, as long as they perceive the world as bigger than their own back yard. Whether it’s “Joe the Plumber” or “Rosie the Riveter,” we know how to get ourselves out of a hole and back on track.

We will buy more fuel efficient cars, drive them less, forego buying that new plasma screen TV, hold on to our current homes a little longer, even pay higher taxes – as long as we feel everyone is pulling their weight and not taking advantage of our sacrifice.

As Bluto Blutarsky said in “Animal House”: “Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”