Imagine playing baseball for 22 years and suddenly – Poof! It’s over. Imagine playing from mid-February until the final weekend of September, grinding and pushing and throwing your body and mind and soul completely at one goal and – Poof! It’s over. That’s what it’s like for the guys watching the post-season from their couches right now.
A lot of other words describe the emotions as well, words that are unprintable in respectable places such as this. But let’s say you’re a fan of the Detroit Tigers. You had the post-season wrapped up and your team blew it. To make matters worse, you even had tickets for the Division Series in your cracked & frayed hands. Suddenly, out of the blue, the Twins got hot and your guys got cold and there was a playoff. And you had a lead and blew the lead and blew your chances and ultimately lost the game.
Yeah, that sucks.
Now put yourself in the shoes of the guys on the field. Mets fans can do this too, based upon 2007 and 2008. These sudden cease & desist orders to your seasons is hearbreaking. For the players, it’s even worse.
If you’re a player who was in the race until the bitter end and now sits watching another team play in your playoffs, well, man you ain’t feeling so good. It’s like losing a girlfriend and watching some other guy marry her. Sure you blew it with her. But it doesn’t stop the pain from eating away at your arteries.
Even worse, think about the Twins players. They had Cinderella Story written all over them. The great late-season comeback, the comeback within the playoff game, the series in New York against the Goliaths of baseball, circa 21st century (and pretty much 20th century as well). And you blew it. Hell, you even had a lead in the 9th in Game 2. You had your shot at infamy. And you blew it. Now you’re sitting on the same couch as the Tigers, watching other teams play in your playoffs. It’s not fun.
And it really, really sucks.
The wound can run very deep. There’s blame everywhere, from the teammate who blew the big game or made the colossal error to the manager who made the bonehead decision to the teammate who suddenly forgot how to run the bases to everyone but yourself. Because one way to get over the season fast is to flip the Denial switch and put your self-criticism into hibernation with the bears and donkeys.
When you finally take responsibility, it will be later in the winter. It will be when all the baseball games are done and the free agents are signing and you’re looking at the way your team is shaping up, or new team if you were traded or waived or released. Then you’ll get a sense of how you can possibly improve or get over the hump next year. Then you’ll get that sense of regret that is so hard to admit to yet so hard to fight.
And you’ll look into a metaphorical mirror and tell yourself that you had a hand in organizing the couch party last October. You were an accomplice to the drop in season ticket sales as the off season progressed. You had something to do with the fan base on the attack and the hot-seat status of your manager. And you’ll think about how you watched the post-season from your couch instead of playing in the post-season while other guys watched you and how much you envied those who played and wished you could stuff a pillow into their faces. You’ll wish the pennant-winning, World champion style champagne had a small amount of poison in it so those guys could feel as lousy as you the day after.
The problem is, your hangover started the first Tuesday in October and theirs didn’t begin until November and yours was the terrible, awful kind where you remember certain things you did and said and wish you hadn’t done or said those things while theirs is the kind of hangover that brings a smile to their faces because, damn, every throbbing pain in the brain was worth it.
Watching from the couch sucks. Maybe next year, they’ll get to share your pain. And you’ll be throbbing in the brain.
You can only hope.
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