The 2009 World Series
What fascinates me about baseball is how trivial it is. At its core, baseball is a bunch of grown men throwing balls at each other, hoping to hit one far enough for a chance to run around a diamond as fast as they can. They wear silly pieces of clothing and bright-colored socks. America is at war with two nations, our economy is gasping for breath, health care is being battered around the Senate. And yet, for up to seven delirious nights, America is frozen to its television screens to watch 35-year-olds play a children’s street game.
And we love every minute of it.
While I am no baseball aficionado, the 2009 World Series, which featured the New York Yankees (yay!) against the Philadelphia Phillies (boo!), was an addicting 6-game match-up of two amazing sports teams. Almost evenly matched, each game had highs and lows, incredible last-minute game savers and excitement that lasted well into the 9th inning. Families, friends, acquaintances, random people in bars, all got together to scream and cry and cheer and hug when Hideki Matsui scored 6 RBIs in one game or Johnny Damon, in a play that is no less than awe-inspiring, stole 2nd AND 3rd base in the 9th inning of game 4, entering scoring position for a Yankees win. While I publicly blame Game 5’s Phillies win mostly to the terrible Yankees pitching, it can’t be denied that Philadelphia’s Clifton Phifer Lee is a pitcher to be reckoned with.
But why do we care so much about something that seems so simple? Why do fans “hang” stuffed dummies with Phillies jerseys on from trees down New York City blocks? Why do Phillies fans do the same? America stops for these games. Last night, during the middle of the final world series game, Manhattan seemed shut down. At 10pm the streets were eerily devoid of people, cops were frozen in front of Radio Shack windows—perhaps even standing next to the would-be criminals they may have arrested had the game not been on. Crime stopped, cars stopped, radios and televisions were blaring the same station everywhere. What is it about our culture that feels so engrossed by sports? Is it our taste for a bloodless victory? When the Yankees won the series last night 7-3 after a final strikeout in the top of the 9th, the looks on the faces of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, did something to us that was, well, moving. We hope, we pray, and even on the trivial level of hoping for one more hit, or one more run, or loading the bases, watching what we wish for play out in front of our eyes is quite an experience. Even if our team loses, we feel satisfied watching the good fight; we feel ecstatic watching the unexpected happen. We believe the impossible grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the 9th when you’re behind by three can happen; we believe in miracles. And even if it doesn’t, or if it happens to the other team, we chalk it up to fate and say, “it’s still great baseball.”
And hey, there’s always next season.
Photograph courtesy of UK Daily Mail