Saturday, October 28, 2006

Blink and you missed it

Obligatory post-World Series post.

First off, the ten year old is happy this morning. Although the Cardinals have a glorious history, since they became his National League team what they've mostly done in the post-season is lose. This year doesn't quite make up for 2004 for him, but he'll take it, and most likely this has sealed him as a fan for life.

But while I was rooting for St Louis, the Tigers let me down. I expected and wanted the Series to go the whole seven games.

There have been a lot of great World Series in the last decade---2002, 2001, and 1997 topping the list---but this year's wasn't one of them. The whole post-season was kind of quiet. The Twins went without a peep against Oakland, Oakland went without a peep against Detroit, and did the Padres actually show up to play against the Cards? The Dodgers put up very little fuss against the Mets, and the Yankees series with the Tigers was exciting for how unexciting it actually was---the Yankees didn't roll over, they were mowed down by great pitching. Happens to the best of teams. But, finally, well-pitched games are only interesting when both teams' pitchers are at the top of their form and both teams' hitters are making the opposing pitcher and fielders work for their money.

Which leaves the NCLS as the saving grace of the post-season.

That's the test of a fan. How much fun did you have watching your team lose?

I don't mean the smug self-loathing that comes over Cubs fans year after year, or the perverse I knew it, I knew it! grim satisfaction Boston fans get every time the Sox fall apart.

I mean the pure, kid-like, what a great game fun that sends you out of the park or has you turning off the TV with almost exactly the same lightness of heart and hope for the future as if your guys had won.

Sometimes it can even be more fun to watch them lose.

The test of this for, say, a Red Sox fan, would be, Which World Series is actually more fun to remember and talk about? 1975, 1986, or 2004?

Now my rooting for the Cardinals was due to a mix of sentimentality and National League loyalty, so take this with a grain of salt, and don't tell the ten year old---I'd rather have watched them lose in seven tough games than win in 5 relatively quiet, if not easy ones. Game 4's back and forth-er was fun, and Kenny Rogers' pitching gem (along with the smudge controversy) made Game 2 exciting, because it met my criteria for exciting well-ptiched games. And the Tigers didn't exactly lay down and die. Still.

The Mets-Cardinals series isn't my favorite lost series. That would be the Dodgers-Mets playoff in '88. But when it was all said and done, Carlos Beltran standing frozen at the plate as strike three passed him by is only the last rueful coda to a good series and a great season.

Our teenager and Tom Watson's 11 year old aren't ready for it yet, but there comes a time when what you really want to see is the Game.

In heaven it is always the middle innings of the final game of a see-sawing seven game series, the score's tied, four to four, your best hitter's coming to the plate, and their best pitcher's on the mound.


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