If you are a baseball fan in Boston or Atlanta then hopefully you haven’t been growing an early playoff beard, even though playoffs seemed like a lock for both the Red Sox and the Braves.
But if you did start growing facial hair in anticipation of the post-season then you’ll be disappointed to have to get out your razor today. Or, maybe your unshorn face is just the first step in your downward spiral of a nervous breakdown.
For those who missed it, last night’s feature of Game 162, the final bout of the baseball season, featured some of the sport’s finest storytelling.
The formerly-first place Red Sox stumbled weeks ago, letting the Yankees clinch their division which guaranteed the Bronx Bombers a playoff spot. The Red Sox, however, still seemed to have their “in”, while a full moon in Tampa turned and saw the Rays finally make a horserace of it in the last few days of the season. But last night, Boston choked and the
Rays made the playoffs.
Over in the National League the Phillies noticed just a few days ago that they were short of 100 wins, at 99, and decided “what the hell, lets win another.” They swept the Braves in Atlanta, ending Atlanta’s playoff hopes while posting their best record ever. As a result, the St Louis Cardinals, who have been mediocre all season, booked their ticket with an 8-0 win alongside the Braves’ choke.
Choking: A recurring sports/health issue.
The aftershock is among baseball fans is interesting. Boston’s fans are mixed between “I knew it!” and “What happened?” Meanwhile, Rays fans are caught totally off guard.
This morning, I’ve already heard Rays fans defend their poor attendance on high ticket prices. But Rays fans shouldn’t complain because they don’t have it all that bad. Even if the last-minute post-season trip inflates next season’s ticket prices (as it will) at least they don’t have to plan for, as Phillies fans do, the additional cost of bail when attending each game.
Better yet, for all baseball fans last night was as exciting as watching the stock market crash and rebound again within one long, extra-hours trading day. Within the course of a few hours the picture changed and the winners from two days ago, the Red Sox and Braves, became today’s losers.
Rays fans shouldn’t complain about ticket prices when you consider that Phillies fans, when attending games, must plan for the additional cost of bail.
But this last–minute change of scenery isn’t totally uncommon in other sports. For one, March Madness sees a Creighton or a St Mary’s beat a Duke or a Syracuse almost every year. And in the world of international soccer, teams’ hopes and fortunes swing in the balance on the last day of the season. In most cases, a club in Spain, England or Italy gets demoted to a lower league if they finish in the bottom three and don’t pull out a win on closing day. As a result of demotion, or “relegation” as it is usually called, soccer clubs lose upwards of $10 million the next year—for lost televised games – as a result of getting booted.
As a fan of the English game, I spent the last day of the Premier League season at The Globe watching one game, keeping abreast of the others. A tiny club called Blackpool had to play the already-crowned champion Manchester United.
That day, Blackpool took and unlikely 2-1 lead only to lose 4-2 at full time. Meanwhile, Birmingham City spent most of the afternoon safe even until Wigan scored a goal against Stoke City.
Wigan still lost their game 2-3. But because how many goals a team scores away-from-home matters, Birmingham got the short end, getting relegated to play in a lower league against smaller clubs in 2011-2012.
All in all, that morning over eggs, baked beans, bangers and coffee I saw five teams in dire straits shift in the standings every 15 minutes, with the two losers, Birmingham and Blackpool, having their fate sealed in the last two minutes of their games. If you care nothing of English Football you still would have been entertained by the bar’s fans, who were as bewildered and loud as traders on the floor of New York Stock Exchange or Chicago’s Merc.
Some American sports fans might say it is uncouth to compare baseball with soccer. But in this new digital world where your bartender can serve you both an omelet and beer over a simultaneous evening soccer match and a noon baseball game, it isn’t surprising to see some of the same last minute excitement take hold during Game 162, as in the Sweet Sixteen or the World Cup.
So, I’m glad that this globalized ailment, season-end psychosis is infecting the American baseball fans the same way soccer effects fans in London, Birmingham, Blackpool and Manchester every year.
Andy Frye writes about sports and life for ChicagoNow.com and covers prep football for ESPNChicago.com. When sports are involved, he loves long weekends.