October 25, 2022

CHASEN | Embracing the Unexpected

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As the Major League Baseball playoffs continue this week, I find myself reflecting on my own baseball fandom. I grew up in New York City as a die-hard Yankees fan, a mere four subway stops from Yankee Stadium. The first year I really cared about baseball was 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series powered by their juggernaut offense and lights-out bullpen. Some of my best memories to this day have occurred while watching the Yankees win, both in-person and on TV. 

But my reflections this fall were primarily spurred by a different team: the Philadelphia Phillies. I’ve spent a significant amount of time watching the Phillies over the course of my life, as the vast majority of my family hails from Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. In fact, I have attended a Phillies-Mets game at Citi Field nearly every year over the past decade. From watching Roy Halladay dominate in 2010 to seeing the Phillies stun the Mets in the ninth inning in 2019, I’ve had some great memories watching the Phillies. In many respects, I do consider myself a Phillies fan as well.

Yet in 2022, as the Yankees and Phillies find themselves in the American League Championship Series and the National League Championship Series, respectively, their fortunes could not be more different. The Yankees, having just been swept by the Houston Astros in the ALCS, appear to be crushed by the weight of expectations. Having won their division, the baseball media and the fans expected them to make a run toward their first championship since 2009. Yet with many injuries and a grossly underperforming offense, they were easily swept aside by a vastly superior Astros team. The team feels lifeless as a result.

The Phillies outlook this October has been completely different. As the lowest seed in the playoffs, little was expected of them in 2022 with an inconsistent lineup and untrustworthy bullpen. But then, with stellar pitching and timely hitting, everything clicked. Over the last three weeks, they have just kept winning, and it has felt like the team has been playing with house money throughout the month of October. It has been great fun to watch as a result, as the fans seem almost grateful for the playoff run they’ve already had. With the team on its way to the World Series after an improbable win in game five, the sense of unexpectedness that has accompanied this playoff run has only made it more enjoyable.

There is a lesson that can be learned from the disparate experiences of the Yankees and Phillies, and it is one that can be applied to our lives here at Cornell. Sometimes, the most fun and rewarding experiences over the course of our college experience can be the ones you expect the least. For example, I did not expect to be involved with Model United Nations in college, especially given I had never done it in high school. Yet I have found some of my best friends and had some of my most incredible experiences through my involvement with the Cornell International Affairs Society. I did not expect to have any academic experience in tax policy or financial literacy. Yet a single interaction during office hours has turned into a class, two law school practicums, and an experience as a TA. Both my most valuable academic experience and my most valuable social and extracurricular experiences have come through completely unexpected avenues.

I only bring all this up to say this: if you have the opportunity to try something new, go for it. If you have the chance to get involved with a professor’s research, or join a new club, try it out. It doesn’t even have to be related to your major or chosen area of study. Over the course of four years, some classes and activities will eventually stick, and they may not be the ones you expected. 

Whether or not you watch baseball or not, I implore you: learn from the Phillies, not the Yankees. Embrace the unexpected, rather than getting caught up in what you believe is expected of you. Appreciate the wide range of opportunities we have at Cornell, and please don’t pigeonhole yourself. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something different, because it can be the experience that changes your perception of Cornell, and even impacts your life beyond Ithaca. 

Isaac Chasen (he/him) is a senior in the Dyson School. He can be reached at [email protected] Cut to the Chase runs alternate Tuesdays this semester.