I like to consider myself a coordinated person. I make a living running after baseballs in the outfield, sometimes dodging bullpen mounds, dancing along unpadded walls, even leaping over oncoming teammates on occasion. I think I could more than hold my own on those Japanese obstacle course TV shows. But when Evan Longoria lined a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Yankees during the last game of the 2011 season to put us in the playoffs, and it came time to climb the three steps that lead from our dugout to the field, I lost all semblance of body control. I ate it. Face-first.
This is what first comes to mind for me when I think about that historic day in Major League Baseball, September 28, 2011. The Yankees had clinched the AL East a few days earlier, while we were tied for the wild-card spot with the Red Sox, who were on the verge of the biggest September collapse in baseball history. Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were mounting a comeback against the Atlanta Braves almost as improbable as ours. National media were having a field day covering the Sox and their $160 million payroll. This was a team that had gone from World Series favorite to the brink of squandering a playoff berth to the cash-strapped, overachieving Tampa Bay Rays.
...Then, a Baltimore double coupled with a Yankee baserunning blunder gave the food room a jolt of life. It felt like a sports bar, not a clubhouse. We were all just fans, powerless to control the outcomes of these two gripping games. Even Dan Johnson, proud smile and all, had transformed himself from hero to spectator. But it wasn’t fun! When you’re playing, or even just available on the bench, you don’t feel as nervous. You can’t. You have to convince yourself that what you’re doing doesn’t matter, that nobody’s watching, that your job and money and pride aren’t on the line. The dozen of us that had gathered in that room all knew this role well. But the role of fan? We were as comfortable as a bunch of dads at the Little League World Series, except we had TWO games to watch at the same time.
Posted: February 20, 2012 at 04:01 PM | 15 comment(s)
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