Neal Shaffer: The 2012 Orioles season is a teaching moment

It's funny how time moves. Even funnier how "normal" moves with it.

Think of the last daunting task you undertook. Depending on your age, it might be applying for college or graduating college. It might be looking for a job. It might be buying a house or having a kid. It
might be sending that kid off to school. It might be taking the plunge into retirement.

Whatever it is, it probably felt huge when you first started planning. It may have even felt one or two ticks short of impossible. You probably ran through a hundred sets of variables as you thought about what to do and how. You might have even freaked out a little bit or found yourself embroiled in an argument.

Big Things work like that. They present themselves as equal parts opportunity and task. In the early stages, the task portion carries most of the water. The opportunity keeps you sharp if you're smart,
but the task rarely fails to loom large.

When the gears start to turn, however, Big Things have a way of starting to feel kind of normal. They shift from "what has to be done" to "what is being done," and in that shift ,Big Things become what they actually are: a series of small things.

So it goes with the 2012 Orioles.

Between April and now we, as fans, have gone from reasonable expectations of a difficult season (rebuilding or otherwise), to cautious optimism of a plus-.500 record, to bona fide entrenchment in
a playoff race.

And doesn't it all feel, if not normal then at least reasonable enough?

Surely not if we consider the broader implications. There's nothing "reasonable" about the Orioles being in a playoff race right now in light of everything that has come before this moment and everything we endured to get here. But today, as things stand, does it really seem that odd?

It shouldn't. They've won the games they've won, however they've managed to win them. They're a winning team. Plenty of ink and pixels have been and still will be wasted on explaining why this shouldn't have happened. Forget that. It has happened.

Day by day, then, I find myself wholly unconcerned with the mountain. It seemed so huge back in April that I didn't even consider it (and, be honest, neither did you). Now it's irrelevant. There is only the home stretch and the unbelievably exciting process of watching the results roll in and checking the latest standings every morning.

That's heady stuff, and it matters in ways that resonate beyond baseball.

Most things don't play out exactly as they're supposed to. This is by no means a bad thing, but we run into trouble when we let expectations - our own or those of outsiders - get in the way of our ability to adapt, expand, and grow.

The 2012 Orioles are a study in taking things as they come. They're a study in perseverance, alacrity, and straight-up work.

Not a single one of us is too good or too advanced to learn from their example.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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