When Hope Turns to Memory (Daryll)

The Houston Astros stand alone as 2017 Major League Baseball World Champions. After an incredible World Series, they beat the Dodgers in Game 7 Wednesday night as so well told here by Giuseppe.

We all know that only one team remains when the season starts, and yet every year we think that this, indeed, is the year for our team of choice.

I was reminded recently of the poem “The Green Fields of Summer” by former MLB Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, which has so many great lines about what it means to be a baseball fan.

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” he starts off. Isn’t that the truth? I grew up as an Atlanta Braves fan, who won 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005. They went to the World Series 5 times, and won just one time. Yet I remember the agony of the Jim Leyritz homer in 1996 almost more than the Carlos Baerga flyout that ended the 1995 Series.

It is a sad feeling the day after the World Series, isn’t it? Since they start playing games in March across Florida and Arizona we have baseball basically every day to follow. From April to September they play, and so often despite playing 162 games it comes down to the final week. This year we were treated to some dramatic playoff series, from the Yankees upsetting the Indians in the Division Series to another Nationals/Dusty Baker collapse in the National League. Then the World Series stretched all the way to the maximum Game 7. Then it was done.

As Giamatti writes much more eloquently than I:

The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

Sure, now there is a lot to figure out before it starts all over again next season. If you are a Dodgers fan, you can’t wait for your revenge. If you are for the Astros, you aren’t thinking about it and want the celebration to last as long as possible. If you are a Brewers fan, you know your team was oh so close to making the playoffs this year despite the lowest payroll in baseball – and next year you are ready to surprise.

Three playoff teams this year fired their managers who couldn’t bring home the big one, so the Yankees, Nationals, and Red Sox managed to make a playoff berth into almost a negative. The hope of the playoffs had been erased into irreversible failure.

Mutability had turned the seasons and translated hope to memory once again. And, once again, she had used baseball, our best invention to stay change, to bring change on.

For the rest of us, the fans of teams like the White Sox, Braves, Padres and Phillies, we don’t have a lot of expectations yet for 2018. We know that every year someone surprises, and are optimistic that next year our team is that team. For every spring brings fresh hope and the disappointments of the previous year are brushed away.

It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

Baseball once again has kept – and broken – its promise. The World Series reminded us just how amazing this game can be. It’s the same game every night. Twenty Seven outs. Pitcher versus hitter, over and over. There are enough days where it seems like everything is going our way, then the next night it seems as if winning any game is impossible.

We keep coming back.

…There are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.

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