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Deliberate Practice

Preparing for the Big Moment

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the earthquake that killed 42 people, caused massive damage to the San Francisco Bay area and disputed the 1989 Wold Series.

I was in Candlestick Park that night, getting ready to cover Game 3 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s.

I was on the phone talking to my wife back in New Jersey, as I often did in the calm minutes before a game. Then at 5:04 Pacific time, the quake hit. It lasted about 12-15 seconds. For the first six, it seemed like just a quaint jostle that seemed to go well with the Bay Area theme of that Series.

Then in the next several seconds, the quake brought terror. The entire stadium moved — not up and down as you might expect — but side to side. It was if a giant had grabbed the stadium and began shaking it.

Realizing there was a story to cover, I immediately hung up on my wife. It was a mistake. In hanging up, I lost one of the precious phone lines out of a city where communications, water and services were profoundly disrupted.

Walking to the back of the pressbox, I heard a local say that this was a bad quake. That meant something, because I had never felt a quake and had no basis for comparison. And then someone said that the Golden Gate Bridge was down! That stunned everyone who heard it.

His information turned out to be wrong. The Bay Bridge, and not the Golden Gate Bridge, was down. But that was bad enough, and by then everyone had a sense that this was no quaint event.

What did I take away from the experience? Be prepared. Years ago one of my players submitted this as her favorite quote: “Doing your best in this moment puts you in the best possible position for the next.”

The quake, and the way various people reacted to it, reminded me of the fateful words of my boss at United Press International, Milton Richman, who warned, “One day you are going to be covering a ballgame, and the roof will fall in.”

Richman had a way of being right.

Whether you know it or not, right now you are getting ready for that moment when fate will beckon. When that moment comes, how will you look back at your preparation?


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