Meaningful Games: The End of Something

Rewatching the ninth inning of Game 6 is a bit like autopsying the body: at once informative and gruesome, and divorced from the subject’s life in such a way as to do it—the team—a disservice. Those last three outs—grisly, tragic, possibly avoidable—look nothing like the majority of the baseball the Toronto Blue Jays played from the end of July onward. The postmortem mood is dirgeful when what’s called for here is a celebration of life. We’re dour when what we mean to say is: Goodbye, Blue Jays, and thanks.

I’ll be honest, though: I was in a trough on Saturday. It came from the suddenness of the ending, I think. One minute it was all happening, and the next, well. It was quick. Then the realization that the season is over and it will soon be November—for my money the dreariest spot on the calendar. It’ll be months before we once again see Kevin Pillar leave earth in pursuit of a fly ball, or Josh Donaldson doing something astonishing, or Jose Bautista furiously swatting a fastball left out over the plate. The season is long and overfull, but then it is gone and we’re bereft.

But do you remember July? I do. I remember almost coming to the conclusion that the 2015 Blue Jays would finish out of it once more, another fizzled season, another once-promising campaign playing out with less than desirable results. Because as much as baseball sometimes allows for the impossible to come to pass, it usually suppresses such things, and anyway Stroman was gone for the year, the rotation was full of holes, and though the offense was fearsome the bullpen wasn’t preventing opponents from scoring. Or something like that. The story of mediocre teams always falls along those lines. Maybe the pitching is good but the runs don’t come. Either way, scuffling is scuffling, and it doesn’t look good.

Then, well, you know what happened next. I’m not going to recap it all for you. But I’ll say that, like you, I noticed things felt different pretty quickly. I watched David Price’s first Toronto start on a TV in a cabin in Cavendish, PEI, across the street and over a green field from the ocean, the stiff salty breeze coming in through the open window, the sun bright and strong overhead. It felt like August, emotionally and sensually. I was on vacation. Price had been acquired while I drove umpteen straight hours from Ontario to PEI, and I didn’t hear about it until I emerged from my Dodge Caravan at the other end. The weather was perfect for the duration of my stay on the island, but I skipped an afternoon at the beach to watch David Price take the mound in a Blue Jays uniform. I didn’t regret that. What a day that was.

They had just taken three out of four from the Royals to climb above .500. Kansas City’s presence there at the beginning of all the excitement is a tidy and cruel bit of symmetry. It frames that last stuffed third of the Jays’ season nicely, the lengthy and markedly dramatic final act which culminated in their ultimate demise, sprawled out on the lush grass of Kauffman Stadium. But Price beat the Twins that first afternoon, Dome open, August sunshine pouring in, crowd beside itself with joy. We were all flush with the new sense that something special might actually happen. Price started that final game, too, on Friday night, if you’re looking for still more theatrical harmony.

The bar where I watched the end of Game 6 was as loud and rowdy as the pit where the groundlings paid pennies to watch a show. A man at the far end would shout, at random intervals, “Let’s go, Blue Jays!” and the rest of the blue-clad patrons would respond, “Blue Jays baseball!” The mood was intense and enthusiastic until the final out, when it hit all of them as it did me: it’s done.

Baseball continues without the Jays, of course, and I’ll be watching the Series with interest. The Mets are a happy story, and they have great hair, plus Daniel Murphy. I’m counting on them to vanquish the Royals. I wasn’t legally able to rent a car the last time the Mets were in the World Series. They wore a lot of black then, and it didn’t look right. I longed for the white homes with blue pins, the racing stripes of 1986. Or further back, I wanted Tom Seaver in cream and blue on a sunny September afternoon in Shea Stadium; I wanted a young Nolan Ryan. But I cheered for the Mets in 2000, because they were playing the Yankees, and I’ll cheer for them this time, too.

That’ll be over soon as well, but the world will beat on. Maybe in the wider context it never really mattered, but it sure as hell felt good, didn’t it? It sure made summer a great ride, and then helped the fall to pass more joyfully. The Blue Jays were winning! God, it was fun.

The run is over now, and we’re free to seek whichever distractions best amuse us across the dark winter. Maybe hockey’s your thing. Maybe it’s Game of Thrones, or knitting. I like basketball. But it’s all just dressing, ultimately, lights and colour and motion to hold our attention until the next season begins. It feels a long way off now, but it’ll get here. Spring always comes.

A pennant-race dispatch from Invisible author Andrew Forbes (What You Need). In April 2016 we’ll be releasing The Utility of Boredom, a collection of Forbes’s baseball essays. 

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