It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
A. Bartlett Giamatti, "The Green Fields of the Mind," Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977
Baseball season ended last night.
It was a pretty good game -- I watched it at this Indian sports bar (right?!) with Kyle and Bri. We had a few pitchers and some serious curry and some great conversation while I watched the screen with one eye. The night before, I watched part of the game at home on my couch with Nick, listened to it go into extra innings on the radio in the car, and watched the final few innings at Yogi's with Dylan and Austin.
Some nights to remember.
Sitting in Yogi's, I was practically giddy watching the score tie and break and tie and break...it was the real magic of baseball. And though Encinitas is not a hub of St. Louis or Texas fans, people in this bar cared. We cared about who won and who lost and who hit and who struck out and of course it's all just a game but it's the game and the series...ah, baseball.
I wanted Texas to win the series because they've never won one, but then I didn't want them to win because GWB used to own them (gotta have principles) and I wanted St. Louis to win because they're the NL team, but then I didn't want them to win because they beat the Brewers to get there...neither are my team and I could hardly have cared less about them a few months ago. But they were the two best teams in October that is what matters.
When we were sitting in Zaika, I was cheering and groaning and not listening to the conversation at times because I was watching the game. Bri asked if I was really that into baseball. I laughed. In the words of my dear father, baseball is life -- the rest is just details. I grew up watching baseball on TV and in real life with my family. And playing softball. And watching my dad play softball in his Sunday league (in which he still plays).
To me there is much magic about the game. So many people think it's so long and boring to watch -- I can't even begin to understand that. Every split-second there are options to be weighing, decisions to be making. Swing? Bunt? Check? Look? Run? Steal? Fastball? Curveball? Change-up?
And then there's the joy of the ballpark. Hot dogs, lemonade, peanut shells on the ground...when we were kids, once, we pretended to be at the stadium and cooked hot dogs at home and ate peanuts and mom let us throw the shells on the ground like we were really there. That's how much we love how baseball makes us feel. And every time I go to a new stadium, I feel a sense of familiarity, there. No matter what city or team or level or section, it's a baseball game.
A few weeks ago, Dylan tweeted an old joke, that the last two words of our national anthem are "PLAY BALL!"
My parents joke that if a movie comes out during baseball season, they'll probably never see it. Every Friday night they (or we when I'm in town) go out to Island's to get a beer and a burger and watch the Padres. The bartenders there know my parents by name and order. They got married in February because, as my dad puts it, it's a sports death valley. In the years since they got married, the Super Bowl has been moved from January into February and is now their anniversary weekend every year. But this is so far beside the point.
Baseball is a ritual part of me, of my family, of my country. As Allen Craig stepped back to catch that final fly ball, a giant smile spread across my face. The Cardinals bench stampeded onto the field, and the crowd roared. It was pure joy.
But as the confetti fell and the awards were announced and the champagne sprayed...the smile began to fade. It's over. For another year, baseball has come to a dramatic close. And the fall ends and the winter begins and there is no sunny, American, joy anymore.
Pitchers and catchers report in 112 days. The ritual begins, anew.