Before you read any further, you should probably remind yourselves that the title of all my sports-related-blogs is “HSO’s from a Bitter P-1.”(See #1 Below…)
I got that nickname from the folks on the “Bob and Dan” radio program, at the conclusion of the 2006 NBA Finals, when the Mavs lost to the Heat. I posted videos of some “phantom fouls” that Dwayne Wade drew, and suggested they had affected the outcome of one game. (Gordon Keith put up a link too…)
And while, the guys on The Ticket seemed to agree with my analysis, they also questioned going down the road of “a Bitter P-1.”
I embraced the name with pride, and thus a whole category on this blog was born.
Tonight, my inner “Bitter P-1” burst forth again, as I listened to Buck and McCarver’s barely concealed glee at a Cardinals win. And, even if they concealed it better than I “heard it” in their voices, is there anyone who seriously doubts that, sometime this weekend, they’ll be partying with current-day St. Louis Cardinals? (Joe, son of “The Voice of the Cardinals,” Tim, “Cardinal Hall-of-Famer.”)
I get that they didn’t cause the Texas Rangers to lose. But all series, I held my tongue (OK. Not really), promising myself that, if the Rangers won I’d just let their barely concealed homerism slide. Victory alone would be the dish served cold.
Then, Game Six happened. And I cried buckets of tears last night. In this I am not being bitter or sarcastic. You can ask Dennise. Real tears. Not ashamed to admit it either.
So when it came to tonight’s Game Seven, I was pretty sure we were going to lose. (Although I was hoping for the ’75 Cincinnati Reds-mojo…) So, I approached the game with Zen-like calm.
And then, about the eight inning, Joe and Tim started in on the St. Louis Cardinal history…you know….about to be their 11th Title….they panned to a shot of all those other title flags, proudly flying over the stadium…blah, blah, blah….yadda, yadda, yadda…
And, on Facebook, my gloves came off. The Bitter P-1 (all cried-out from the night before) blew up in full force.
Here’s one post-game Status Update, for example:
“Congratulations to Cardinal fans everywhere. I am sure your 11th World Championship means as much as our first would have meant to us.”
(Please be sure you read the forgoing with your sarcasm detectors fully engaged…)
Let me explain the bitterness…
Look. I know you Cardinal fans are glad you won. I get that. Delirious, even. I am sure. Good for you.
But, for cryin’ out loud, it’s your ELEVENTH title. That’s one every eleven years of your storied franchise’s existence. Second only to the Yankees who, on average, win every four years. I used to like you guys. I really did. But, now you’ve beaten us, and Joe and Tim got me thinking deeply about those eleven titles.
So, sorry St. Louis, the thrill is gone.
Here are facts behind the bitterness…
…The Texas Rangers/Senators are currently tied (with the Astros) for the third longest drought in terms of World Series titles.
…The Cubs and Indians have far longer droughts, year-wise. But…both have previously won titles.
To review, the last time the Rangers won?
How does “never” feel? Oh, right…you have no idea!!
See, you’d have to ask a Texas Rangers, Astros, Nationals, or Mariners fan. Because they’re the only fans who know. So, don’t tell me “Well, at least you’ve gone twice now. It’s a LOT worse for lots of other teams”
No it isn’t. Not really. Just three other teams, statistically.
So, yes, along with our sadness, there’s a whompin’ big pile o’ bitter mixed-in tonight.
And, after Game Six, the Texas Rangers are now owners of at least two infamous records:
— The only team to lose a lead in a World Series game five times in one game.
— The ONLY team to be ONE STRIKE AWAY from winning a Series… not once, but TWICE in one game.
Think about it. One. Strike. Away.
Not one out. One strike.
Not once. Twice. In one game. In two innings.
Do you know how improbably horrible that is?
And it’s not like we have one guy we can focus on (right or wrong), like Bill Buckner (even though everybody forgets the Sox blew a lead that next night…) It was our whole team that contributed to this…errors…horrible bullpen pitching…anemic hitting.
One. Strike. Away. Two times.
We’ll be reliving this in our dreams. Yes, it could have been different. But it wasn’t. That is our history now.
Fifty years from now, two fans will be talking: “Hey you know the only team to be ONE STRIKE AWAY twice in one game?”
Until such time as the Texas Rangers finally win a World Series, Game Six last night will haunt us all. I don’t want it to. I just know, factually, that it will.
So, yes, “The Bitter P-1” was on a rampage earlier tonight. No apologies for that. It’s a part of the process.
But here’s the thing. The minister in me pastorally reminds myself that behind each bitterness there’s real sorrow and sadness.
My sorrow and sadness was last night, after the Rangers lost Game Six. I cried quite a bit, actually.
I mean, can you imagine how it felt for us 40-year Rangers fans imagine the moments we thought were about to erupt? Our guys jumping across the field? Forty years of futility erased in one fell swoop? Redemption finally come to everyone?
And then, in an instant, it was gone. Twice.
I knew the moment the Cards won last night that it was gone. I knew we’d lose tonight. If the our own Roy “Hamilton” Hobbs Jr couldn’t’ pull out a storybook ending with his homer in the 10th, I knew the dream was over.
Because, as Wash says: “That’s just the way baseball go.”
And it was such a sudden and dramatic reversal that I just cried.
And it suddenly reminded me of the last time I cried like that over baseball…
I was eighteen. I was a part of a summer-league baseball team, here in North Dallas (SVAA) comprised, mostly, of guys that were on the Richardson High School team too. I hadn’t made my high school team. That, in itself, had been a big shock. I’d figured I would. I had this crazy dream –as millions of boys have– that, somehow, I’d be a major leaguer one day.
I know. Looking back now, in unflinching 20-20, it was ridiculous. But baseball is a game of ridiculous dreams.
Our team was pretty good. We actually made it to the championship our junior year. We lost to a pitcher who, we were told, was going to A&M on a baseball scholarship. So, we felt pretty good about ourselves. We figured we’d “get ’em next year” during our senior year.
|With our “runners-up” trophy as Juniors. (I’m 3rd from the left)|
And, all through the regular season, we did. In fact, we destroyed the other teams. We were a machine. It was clearly our time, our moment. We had some great hitters, and decent pitching from a guy who threw a pretty wicked curve (for a high school kid…)
We cruised into the playoffs, against the bottom seed in the bracket.
But it was there, incredibly, that we lost in the first round. We were stunned. It was not how our “story” was “supposed” to unfold. We were “supposed” to be champs that year. It was our year of redemption. It was our final year in a sport that had nursed our fantasies since we were little boys.
That night, I went home to an empty house. I don’t remember why, but my parents and sisters were out of town, and I was there alone. (Nobody figured it’d be the last game…)
Standing there alone in my room, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks: this would be the last time I’d ever take off a baseball uniform.
Maybe I’d play college intramural softball. Maybe I’d play some adult softball league. But that barely-alive fantasy, that dream of childhood, nursed into my late teens, was about die forever in that moment.
So I took off a baseball uniform for the last time in my life.
And I cried big buckets of tears, alone.
Last night reminded me of that moment, all those years ago.
We grow up, and if baseball was once our dream, most of us eventually realize it’s not gonna happen for us. And so, we cheer for our teams instead. We hope that THEY can win for us; do what we never will.
The Rangers were “supposed” to redeem this memory of mine last night, in Game Six. I know, there’s a whole lot of ways that that’s just stupid. But that’s also just “the way baseball go.”
Every year, you get to dream of redemption, whatever that means for you, whatever memories you carry inside of you. Every April, like Spring itself, hope is eternal.
And, if you’re lucky, every now and then, your team wins it all, and there are moments of substitutionary redemption.
In the years that passed after I last took off that uniform, I came to understand a truth that you’ve probably heard before: Baseball is a game that is far more about losing than it is about winning. In fact, it’s probably the only major sport designed that way.
It’s been said many times, but to review: only in baseball are the greatest players those who fail 70 precent of the time. (.300 or better hitters). The greatest three or four players of all time? They failed 60 percent of the time. (Dennise reminded me that, factoring in balls and strikes, the hits-to-pitches ratio is actually far far lower than this even. Making the point, even more dramatically…)
Managing how you lose, learning how to cope with losing, is perhaps more important in baseball than in any other sport. You must do it to survive each at-bat, inning, game, season. Managing how you lose is built into the fabric of the sport itself. Or it would drive you crazy. (BTW: to those of you who only watch baseball at World Series time and say, “This game drives me crazy!!” I’d suggest that this may be why…)
And I know this. I really do.
But damn it all, I just thought, for once, my team was gonna win. I thought redemption would finally come.
So, no, I don’t apologize for either that foolishness, or for my bitterness now. In fact, the reality is that just writing-out all this tonight has erased most of my own bitterness. In a few moments, I’ll push “Publish,” take off my “lucky” official Pudge Rodriquez jersey, and put it away until next year.
Here’s the truth below either sadness OR bitterness: I am SO proud of these Texas Rangers. I am so proud that they have made it to the Series, two years in a row. That’s SO amazing. I know that. Really. Promise.
And I have every faith in the world that they will be back.
I believe in God, Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan. (Yes. In that order).
Someday, we will get there. Someday, even Game Six will be redeemed. It has to be. I know it.
And until then? At least I’m not a Yankees fan. Or, as I realized this series, even a Cardinals fan. What can they possibly know of this experience? Of the life-lesson of 50 losing seasons without redemption? Of what it really means to learn to live with losing?
Nothing. I don’t expect them to.
Past the bitterness, the bitterness passes. It always does. And there becomes an honor in losing. There really does. So, if you’re bitter about it tonight, I suppose I’m here to say that that’s OK right now, so long as you don’t stay there.
Because in life, as in baseball, if you choose to live out of the lessons that losing teaches you –the lessons suffering teaches– that in itself becomes a step down the road toward redemption.
Tonight, more than ever, I am proud to be a Texas Rangers fan.
Get ’em next year.
(1) “HSO” = “Hot Sports Opinions.” “P-1″= A term used by the station to describe avid listeners of 1310 AM in Dallas)
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