Baseball As Melodrama

It’s the bottom of the ninth inning. My team has just scored two runs after being shut out the entire game by a pitcher who was deified with last year’s Cy Young award. He represents a hated rival team whose fans routinely take over our stadium and drown us out, especially when busloads of them come down the interstate and get as drunk as skunks during the game. But now they’re worried. We have the tying and winning runs on base with just one out. Coming to the plate is a renowned slugger who was acquired this off-season just to pinch-hit and hit home runs in situations like this. On deck, just in case he doesn’t do the job, is an aging but still respected catcher destined for the Hall of Fame someday.

So what do our heroes do? Both strike out with the bats on their shoulders. Which causes me to spend the rest of that evening and a good part of the next day demanding over and over to like-minded fans, and anybody else who will listen, What were they thinking?

Fortunately, there are other games on the horizon, offering instant redemption. There comes a day, very soon, when an expensive free-agent acquisition from that very same evil team to the north scores the winning run not by bashing the ball, but by using his fundamental baseball instincts in an inspiring dash around the bases, taking advantage of the opposing team’s mental lapses. And the elation of that victory makes me totally forget the devastation of that other game. So in the space of a few days, I progress from “Oh, the humanity!” to “Ain’t the beer cold!” And the best part is, I’ve over-emoted about something that matters not at all in the scheme of things. Overreaction is the definition of a sports fan.

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