Sunday , September 20 2020

World Series – The Agony and the Ecstasy

Matt Welch and Dave Pell reflect opposite ends of the fan emotion spectrum. Matt glories:

    Mostly, I’m just real happy, happier than I remember being in a long time, as goofy as that sounds. Cubs and Red Sox fans? You’re in for a treat, when your day comes. We had the added bonus of not really expecting to win the Series, having never been there before, a point made well by the L.A. Times’ Joe Mathews, an actual Angel fan who they let write a smart column throughout the seven games (though not in the Sports section).

    ….I just got off the phone with Tim Blair, who was calling from Flagstaff, Arizona, where he’s about 90% done with delivery of a Chevrolet that contains a bumper sticker bragging that “My child is a vegan honors student!” (He is chain-smoking, and wearing a Dale Earnhardt cap, to compensate.) Anyways, Tim is from Australia, which means he doesn’t understand any sport not played with “wickets” on a “pitch,” but nevertheless he greatly enjoyed watching the last two games of the Series, rooting hard for the Angels all the way, and living vicariously through us Angel fans (as partial compensation for some tragedy involving “Collingwood” or something equivalent back in Pirate-stan). I’ve heard variations on this theme from scores of people, and it pleases me to no end — they’ve adopted our team, even if they hadn’t watched baseball in 10 years, and instinctively rooted for the hustling beard-boys over that awesome, self-absorbed supplement-gobbler for the Giants. My extended family — grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, screaming eight-year-olds — all live in Oregon and Washington, and root for the Mariners if anyone, but they were all completely behind the boys in red. We were at my granddad’s wake, which was an informal, upbeat event, but nevertheless it didn’t seem like the right place to impose Game Six of the World Series … until I heard the shrieking of about a dozen females, all pointing at the set and yelling taunts at Barry Bonds. I strolled over to see the commotion, just in time to watch Bonds round the bases to make the score 4-0. Over the next hour, things would get so advanced that my own allegedly sports-ignoring mother was positioning my eldest brother and I into the proper “sports fan” position, while my niece made sure I stood up in the same spot I was when Spiezio hit his three-run home run…

    It was a real treat to watch it all, including Game 7, with family, who have all been suffering the Affliction even longer than I have. Aside from my grown brother — aged 39, mind you — not being able to bear staying in the room while the Giants were hitting, for voodoo reasons, everyone behaved well, and we were able to share a very nice moment together. Down south, my Dad and other brother and other grandmother were whooping it up. My sister’s husband even managed to get tickets to the game itself. The Welches were represented….

Matt recapitulates the Angels’ previous litany of woe, including the first time he heard his father really swear, check it out.

Dave laments (weep Dave):

    it would be nearly impossible to write about anything but
    the Giants. Anything but Game Six when the champagne was on ice and we were making plans for ticker tape parades and reminding each other to behave magnanimously when dealing with our tanned, blonde and pitiful neighbors
    to the south. Sure when we saw Travolta and Michael Eisner in his Mickey Mouse t-shirt, we (like anyone outside of Edison Field) wished them nothing but ill. But for the rest of them, those Angels and their fans, well they were a fun team to beat. No hard feelings.

    I had been sure for years that I was beyond all this. I had systematically taken the heart out of sports, especially baseball. My own short-lived playing career was most notable for a feverish fear of the ball (I hit the dirt on low and outside change-ups) and a decades-long, haunting streak of repeatedly allowing (or maybe inviting, my shrink suggests) a steady stream of hard and softballs to be
    driven into my groin. By the waning years of my career on the diamond I was greatly slowed by the grating metal of the Ford Escort hood that I along with my pediatrician and other concerned parties had refashioned into a pair of game-day underpants.

    So one would think, just based on my forever altered gait, I would write on anything today, anything other than the victory ring that was wrested from my city’s clutches. If the early years didn’t do it, I was sure that that the later
    ones had. For several years I worked as a sports reporter for a Bay Area television station. One summer I attended nearly a hundred major league baseball games and then stuck my microphone into the mix for a never-ending drone of post-game cliches. Nothing can take the fan out of person faster
    than ritualistically listening to the participants of a professional sporting event speak of playing one game at a time and leaving it all on the field. During one hopeful spurt, I decided that instead of going after the usual mumbo jumbo, I would get creative and ask the Giant’s players for their picks for best picture in an upcoming Academy Awards. One player said he had no idea what I was talking about and Giant’s star of the moment Kevin Mitchell paused for several seconds and then came up with the thoughtful selection of Miami Vice. I may have been the only person associated with baseball who wasn’t the least bit surprised, when later that season, Mitchell shocked viewers by accidentally catching a deep fly to left field with his bare hand.

    These moments, coupled with a brief and unsuccessful foray into gambling on sports (so low was my self-esteem by the middle of one season that I repeatedly threatened to break my own legs), should’ve done the trick. I should have forever been protected from the feeling normal people get when their team hurls decades of potential bliss into Orange County’s bottomless inferno.
    I can see why my sister would be compelled to spend this day writing about what transpired over the weekend. She’s a real fan having spent decades in her box seats between home and third waiting for a victory that was so within her grasp. I’m not even sure her neighbors have been able to talk her down from the roof yet (although the family was greatly relieved when she agreed to temporarily lay down her arms a mere eleven hours after Game Six – the credit there goes to a good samaritan who convinced us to turn to using the tranquilizer dart gun sooner rather than later).

    But that’s not me. I was the fair-weather fan. My baseball was like my religion. I only showed up for the really big games. Surely being a die-hard fan for all of a month wouldn’t be enough to leave me this empty after being on the receiving end of baseball history’s steel-toed boot. It was just some weekend entertainment. There are more important things in the world to think and write about. Dusty’s son Darren will eventually stop sniffling and even the hardcore fans will move on. So by this morning, I should’ve been back to the real news. Back to more important issues. My god, I don’t even like baseball.

As an Indians fan, Dave, I have ’95 and especially ’97 to dwell upon – the Indians in game 7 ’97 were even closer than the Giants in game 6 ’02: two outs in the ninth with the lead, although to blow a five-run lead in the 7th and 8th was a particularly spectacular way to fold.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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