From the moment Chicago White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar took the mound on Friday night surrounded by the dozens of healthcare professionals at Rush who were responsible for saving his life just six weeks ago, nothing else really mattered.
This is a season where outcomes were always beside the point to begin with on the South Side. With the added layer of a young man who was very nearly taken from his wife, children, extended family and friends far too soon, just about anything might have seemed trivial.
So we can spare ourselves the idea that this is some sort of rallying point for a 17-37 team. Seeing Farquhar throw out the first pitch was special for its own reasons entirely.
However, what can happen in a moment like this is that perspective can be added. When a 31-year-old professional athlete suffers a stroke without any prior indications that he was at risk, it forces just about everybody to take inventory of what’s important in their life.
On the baseball field, that can and should be freeing to an extent. And that’s what the White Sox showed on Friday night.
They found themselves behind early against the Milwaukee Brewers and fought their way back behind an all-inclusive hitting effort (everyone in the lineup had a hit) and 6.1 shutout innings from Farquhar’s friends in the bullpen. That made it feel great to dedicate the performance to their fallen teammate afterward, but this is also a team that has been playing with Farquhar in mind since the stroke and has still struggled anyway.
But the mindset changes to an extent when you see him smiling and laughing with his family at his side. It helps melt the tensions of trying to win for Danny and replaces them with wanting to have fun because of Danny.
It doesn’t take the team any closer to their ultimate goal of contention in the traditional sense. Starting pitching inconsistencies don’t go away, the bullpen doesn’t become any more reliable and the gaping holes in the lineup don’t become any smaller.
What it can do is build a stronger clubhouse atmosphere. While that may be impossible to quantify — a bad team doesn’t suddenly become a contender simply because they like each other — we’ve seen enough good teams in sports fall apart because of bad chemistry to know that it’s still important. We simply don’t spend a lot of time talking about the impact that has on teams because it’s baseball and we tend not to like anything we can’t assign a set value.
A season as ugly as this could easily make things pretty contentious in the White Sox clubhouse. However, given what Farquhar has been through it has to be a little easier to see past everyday gripes during a long season. And that’s what makes his story inspirational — just outside of the rah-rah, “Win one for the Gipper” context offered up by cliche-addled sports movies.
Danny Farquhar’s story is about understanding the preciousness of life. Which is what made Friday night’s White Sox win simultaneously one of the most meaningless and somehow still one of the most beautiful you will ever see.