Monday, October 15, 2012

The Agony of Defeat

The Washington Nationals suffered one of the most devastating last minute turn of events in the history of recorded team sports.  It may be time to consider relocating the franchise in Charlotte, NC.  The region can no longer support the weight of a major league baseball team after Friday night.

In the annuls of epic collapses, the 9-7 loss in Game 5 of the Division Series could be an instant classic, and I mean that in a bad way.  I can only think of 4 other comparable stories that saw all-but-certain final victory snatched from a fan base.  The Portland Trailblazers blew a 16 point 4th quarter lead against the LA Lakers in a 2000 Game 7 Conference Final, but the NBA is fixed, so that doesn’t count.  The Music City Miracle is pretty darn close.  The relocated Titans from Houston pulled off a trick play that propelled them in the NFL playoffs, but that game was close throughout.  The Nats suffered a slow drip culminating with the final deluge of pain. 
Mariano Rivera failed to protect a 9th inning lead in 2001 against Arizona and it cost the Yankees a ring.  Maybe that was more devastating and unexpected, but let’s face it.  No one would pretend that the Yankees weren’t overdue to suffer a stinging loss like that.  That leaves me with only that French guy choking a 20 stroke lead on the final 2 holes at the British Open a few years ago.   The image of him all alone wading in the water hazard with his pants rolled up, now that’s the agony of defeat.

That’s it.  Nothing else compares.

Bill Buckner you say, Red Sox Nation?  That was a Game 6 and you still had another chance for ultimate redemption.  Steve Bartman you say, long suffering Cubs fan?  That was a Game 6 too, and you still had Game 7 with Kerry Wood on the hill.  The Miracle at the Meadowlands?  Not a playoff game. 
The day before in the 9th inning on 10-11-12, on the 13th pitch of the at bat, Jayson Werth hit his 14th career post season home run to win Game 4 for the Nationals.  The 9-10-11-12-13-14 magic was at work. We could count on it.  There was more than hope.  There were high expectations.  Having won Game 4 in such dramatic fashion, after being without a team in Washington for 37 years, after losing the baseball franchise twice to relocation, after several 100 loss seasons, after 8 innings with the lead, it was our time.  It was our time, but it was our time to learn about patience and suffering and the Curse of Teddy.

Thomas mercifully fell asleep in the 7th inning and did not witness his team unraveling at the seams.  He slept through Edwin Jackson giving up one run.  He snored while Tyler Clippard served up the home run ball that cut the lead to 1 in the 8th inning.  I considered waking him after Kurt ‘Clutch’ Suzuki provided what I assumed was the winning insurance run in the bottom of the 8th to give the home team an insurmountable advantage. 
The poor kid did open one eye for a brief moment when the banging of my head against the Man Cave wall interrupted his slumber.  He was groggy enough that the full impact of the moment didn’t destroy him.  He was protected like the drunk who is so relaxed at the moment of impact during a violent collision that he can walk away unscathed.  That was my tired boy.  He was too incoherent to be permanently scarred.  He was able to walk away to bed under his own power, but he’ll be sore the next day, I knew.  It was a violent crash.

There was a slight sigh of relief from me amidst the carnage.  I had promised to take Thomas to an NLCS game.  That morning, standing room only tickets were available on StubHub for the low low price of $100 each.  As every parent knows, a $100 ticket means $200 (times 2), plus parking, plus hot dogs.  The Nats defeat swung my balance sheet in my favor by about $250, so with that in mind, I thought I could sleep.  The Nats lost but I was richer for it.

Before bed, I need to unwind with a final fix of political news.  On my regular site visit to one of the rolling electoral vote trackers, for the first time all campaign season long, Mitt Romney had crested above 206 (fairly) solid electoral votes.  For 5 months now, his projected votes were ping-ponging between 191 and 206, depending on the latest data.  On this night of the Washington’s untimely demise, another comeback seemed to be in the making.

I went to bed, hoping that Obama/Biden will not play the Drew Storen role on November 6th, and be forever remembered for handing a last-minute victory to the competition. 
Hey, Barack, on Tuesday night, no gopher balls, OK?  There is no one warming in the bullpen for you and there is no “next year”.

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