Expectations were certain for the Phillies to cruise into the World Series. And then they didn’t. What was a spectacular season spiraled into one of shame and regret. Stunned disbelief gave way to actual, clinical depression. Distraught, deflated, disbelieving, let down. The initial feeling of having to throw up, mellowed into a sensation of having been punched in the stomach.
Yes, it’s baseball affective disorder (BAD), when your mood parallels the performance of your baseball team – similar to seasonal affective disorder, that triggers winter month depression in the afflicted – but more scientifically proven, more real. So you drink it away, or you gobble a Vicodin every time the memory of that final out flickers in your mind, and for a little while, you feel okay. Maybe you start doing coke, or else meth, chopping it up on the jewel case of a Teenage Fan Club cd, the grim chords of Alcoholiday playing in the background, knowing that to feel this way, over such a thing, is puerile, shameful.
When I was nine years old, I thought I lived for the Phillies. I was crushed whenever they lost. Crushed. The image of a rapidly sinking ball grazing Garry Maddox’ glove before plopping on the ground in the 10th inning of Game Four of the 1978 NLCS against the Dodgers is scorched on my cerebral cortexes like a hot brand on a bronco’s ass. Maybe the fleeting euphoria of 1980 and 2008 was there to make me feel worse and degraded. Maybe it’s a higher power keeping me on my toes, reminding me not to expect too much. Or maybe it’s all a plausible metaphor for my life, their Sisyphean effort to win another World Series mirrors my own feeble attempts at sorting out my own life. I don’t know…why didn’t they relax the borders against the crappy Atlanta Braves? What if they had pitched Worley? Why didn’t Howard and Ibanez roid up? What about the whole stinking Wild Card format, if the postseason began with a best-of-seven series, and they’d have one or two more games, at home, in which to right their ships….? And why if the Division Series is only best-of- five is there apparently room in the schedule to add an additional Wild Card round….?
I come back to the story my dad told me over and over, a parable if you will, a cautionary tale of diminished expectations, of a Phillies team that crushed his spirit irrevocably in 1964. I don’t have children to pass along this tale to, so I say unto you: tell your children and grandchildren the story of the 2011 NLDCS. Paint for them the mental picture – the monstrous image of Ryan Howard in agony on the field whilst a jubilant Chris Carpenter pumped his fist in aberrant victory. Because sometimes baseball is twisted. Sometimes it’s grossly, horribly wrong, deeply, deeply unfair. And it might cause clinical depression. But it’s there because we need it. We need something that is like life, but not life to remind us that real life is a strapped-in roller coaster ride with nausea and physical pain, with misery and untold suffering, with unexpected horrors and travesties of justice, with unending sadness and certain death… ..and it’s okay.
Besides, if Herman Cain wins the Straw Poll, than the healing process can begin….and then, you know, April inevitably comes around….and I can start becoming whole again.