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It’s taken me a week to write about the conclusion of the Yankees-Tigers ALDS. This isn’t because I’ve been holed up in my apartment crying and watching Field of Dreams over and over again (well, maybe I’ve been doing that, but not because the Yanks fell short). Actually—and I say this with complete sincerity—the loss prompted me to really think about my relationship with baseball. Here is what I discovered:
1. For me, a baseball game is a completely in-the-moment experience. I watch almost every Yankee game of the regular season. I stress. I text continuously with my brother and my dad. I pace. I yell at the television. I cheer (sometimes so loudly that my neighbors close their windows). Each contest is an outlet, a joy, a roller coaster, a diversion, a rush of adrenaline.
As excited, distressed, exasperated, or elated as I may be during those nine innings, after the last out, I feel a sense of calm. America’s pastime is not life or death. It’s not a war or an election. It won’t save the environment or the children. It’s a game, and its outcome does not have long-term effects or dire consequences.
Of course, I do read postgame analysis, listen to sports radio, watch highlights and talk (gush) about big moments, but I also recognize that when a game is over, it is history. It will never be played again. Perhaps part of the reason why baseball appeals to me is that I am able to wholly invest in it for three hours and then let it go without regret.
3. Believe it or not, I apply this logic to the postseason. I watched Game 5 of the ALDS in a bar with my brother and his best friend. Walking home after the game, my anger and frustration dissipated quickly. The Bombers deserved to lose. Their lineup, full of All-Stars and Hall of Famers, had failed to get a clutch hit.
As joyful as it is to see my team triumph, I know the Yankees can’t win the World Series every year. And there’s always next season.
4. Okay, so maybe I’m a little jaded. I won’t deny that winning the World Series is thrilling. The hugs, the champagne showers, the postgame interviews, the trophy, the rings…it’s all wonderful. However, no matter how the Yankees fare in the playoffs—whether they win a championship or suffer an early exit—I am always left with a certain feeling of letdown because the season is over.
I realize that I support a club that is competitive in the playoffs almost every year, and that this influences my perspective. Some fans rarely, if ever, see their team make the postseason, let alone win a championship. Perhaps if I supported the Cubs, I would feel differently.
5. All things considered, I must admit: I love World Series championships, but I love baseball more. The Bombers’ played their 159th contest of this year’s regular season against the Red Sox. New York had already clinched the AL East Division Title and best record in the AL. Essentially, a win or a loss wouldn’t mean a thing for New York.
The game lasted 14 innings. I watched the extra frames on the edge of my seat. Maybe the Yankees would prevail, putting the Sox one loss closer to elimination. Or, perhaps Boston would win and it would be the turning point in their dismal September. For some reason, No. 159 seemed unbelievably important, and I couldn’t figure out why until the Yankees lost in the ALDS.
It’s because for this obsessive fan, each game offers excitement, hope, joy, disappointment, triumph, spectacle, history, breakthrough and surprise, be it Game 159 of the regular season or Game 5 of the ALDS. Regardless of whether the Yankees win it all in a given season, that’s what I miss from November to March.