Normally I write pieces where I pull only from my brain. I strive for an objective, analytical incision of a moment. A slice of the baseball world, laid out like an autopsy. Cold facts, maybe a joke or two, but the meat is from the head, not the heart.
As I sit watching the Yankees and Twins have one of the more absurd first innings of the year in the opening frame of the 2017 playoffs, I have a charge, no, a demand for Nationals fans everywhere: Soak it in.
Don’t shy away from the moment, no matter how high the tension, no matter how deep that ulcerous pain in your gut stabs. Shed any concern you feel for how rapidly you’re consuming that fifth of Four Roses and how many times you’ve awoken the eight-year-old with your shouting. These feeling, for ill or delight, are by far the best parts of the baseball universe. It’s been easy the last three playoff runs for the Nationals to chalk up the entire season as a failure because of how precipitously the fall came. I instead posit that these soul crushing Wil E. Coyote moments are building towards a yin to the yang of defeat. We most suffer so we can appreciate, we must face the trial so the reward is earned. We must taste the bitter so the sweet is fully grasped.
On the other hand, if it never happens, I’m ok with that too. No, really. All too often we get focused solely on the outcome of a moment, an experience, a….shit, I”m going to say it aren’t I?… a destination. I can think of the times it’s hurt so hard for us here in Nats town the last three trips around the playoff block. Jansen and Kershaw shutting us down after Max was so good. I know you were there for all 18 innings against a Giants team that really wasn’t that good, they were just that hot. Then of course there’s Game 5. You know which one. Watching Storen drown. Watching that ball sail towards the left field line and screaming “Go foul!” as loud as you could.
I can’t take that away. Nor would I even if I could. Instead I want to offer you a moment of mine. Game 4. That one. It’s not about the home run. It’s not about the win. It’s not about the hope. It’s about what happened in my living room right after. My wife and I were watching the game, sitting literally on the edge of our seats (ok, fine… couch), and our then three year old was doodling around the living room, doing….whatever the hell it is three year olds do. I frankly was paying no more attention to him than making sure he didn’t randomly discover a chain saw and start it up.
Then it happened, “Swing and a long drive, deep left field……” And my living room turned into a baseball asylum. Screaming, fist pumping, and jumping around in a most undignified manner. In the middle of this I looked down, mostly just to make sure I was not trampling the aforementioned toddler to his premature death, and noticed he no longer was a bystander in the moment. Instead he had gleefully joined the wild rumpus. I don’t know if he understood fully what was going on (he had certainly watched his share of baseball by that point), and I know he certainly didn’t grasp the gravity of the play, but he was scampering, cavorting, and screaming “We did it!” just as loud as his mother or I.
That doesn’t happen in May.
Do I care that we were crushed beyond belief twenty four hours later? Of course I do, but you know what? It was worth it (don’t type “Werth it” you buffoon…). If the price of Game 4 was Game 5, I’d pay it every time, and gladly. That is the power of the post season. Don’t fight it, don’t hate it, and for the love of everything you cherish, don’t ever try to escape it. Sit down, pour yourself a stiff one, and tighten your seatbelt. But whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it, because it will be a price well paid no matter what the piper demands.