David Lauderdale

Braves manager anything but an underachiever -- nor are we

I hesitated for a moment Monday night, wondering if I had the heart to watch the Braves game.

Just the day before, the Braves had taken the lead on a miraculous home run in the bottom of the eighth, only to lose by one run on some poor goat's third error of the game.

Braves fans are used to getting their hearts stomped flat. It's happened a lot since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966, then blossomed into "America's Team" on former owner Ted Turner's Superstation on cable television.

But I did watch Monday's game, of course. For one thing, there's always hope. For another, it was historic. The one-run loss to the Giants in the playoffs made it Bobby Cox's last game as manager.

For more than 2,500 games over 29 seasons, Cox has been in charge of the psycho-drama we call Braves games.

I've sweated through too many of those games to admit in public. But as we watch Cox tip his hat to the crowd and head for the tunnel, we can savor some lessons on life -- and even see new perspective on the Lowcountry's future.

A lot of sports columnists will tell you that Cox underachieved.

His Braves teams won 14 division championships by finishing the 162-game season with the best record.

But even with a Hall of Fame pitching staff, his Braves turned that into only five National League pennants, and won the World Series only once.

Critics forget that, for the most part, the Braves were bumbling embarrassments before Cox got there. And what's wrong with 14 division championships? No other franchise in sport has done such a thing. Cox gave us an embarrassment of riches.

They also forget that only by the cruelest twists of fate's dagger did we not win at least one more World Series. We lost the 1991 Series in the 10th inning of Game 7. The score was 1-0. Five games in that series were decided by one run, three went to extra innings and four were won in the final at-bat. Cox usually had his team in a position to win, and that's all a coach can do.

I sense the same glass-is-half-empty attitude today in the Lowcountry. Perhaps because it's election season, we hear a drum beat that the amazing achievements here over the past half century are marginal at best, and the future is bleak. Baloney.

If Cox's Braves underachieved, or if the Lowcountry's beauty has underachieved, let's all get down on our knees right now and pray for more of it.

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