What with it being the winter doldrums around here I thought I might as well share a story from the playoffs. It was October 11, the day of game five of the NLDS. I had watched with detachment, even disinterest as we lost the first two. Ah well, I thought, it was a fun team, and we won it all two years ago. Time to move on to basketball season. Then games three and four happened, and I was back, obsessing over the tiniest lineup switches and bullpen matchups with the rest of you. There was a problem, though. The schedulers, in their infinite wisdom, had chosen to put the game at 10 AM, right in the middle of my second period, calculus. Let’s join the action there:
Me: Game starts in 35 minutes, Neil.
Me: Game starts in 20 minutes, Neil.
Me: Game starts in 15 minutes, Neil.
Neil: Shut the hell up, man.
And so on. My buddy Josh had that snazzy ESPN app, and when there was a break from the lesson, I asked him to check it.
Josh: Oh yeah, of course…yeah they’re down three in the first.
Me: Fuck it. Fuck it all. Okay, um. I guess we can—
Josh: I’m just kidding man, it’s 0-0.
Me: Dammit Josh, you do not do that to a guy with this much invested in a baseball game. Who’s batting?
Side note: I live in Oregon, where baseball lags in popularity behind basketball, college football, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, beer pong, and whatever sport the hipsters have decided to watch ironically today, so my friends understandably didn’t see the gravity of the situation.
We go to lunch, where I check the score on my iPod every several seconds. Nothing happens.
I go to chemistry next, where we have a sub. Perfect. We’re watching a movie. Perfecter. I continue to check the score every few seconds, clutching my iPod like a lifeline and refreshing the google results for "sf giants" more often than I know things can reasonably happen, my stomach turning over every time I see the scores start to appear. Suddenly, the baseball gods smile. Crawford hits a triple (though I have no way of knowing this) and we’re up 1-0. I breathe normally. I check again moments later: 2-0! Now I have trouble breathing again. This is too much. I look around and vaguely wonder why no one else is going ballistic in their seats. I check again. 6-0! I pump my fist and scream-whisper "YES!" The kid next to me looks over. "Stocks?" he says. "No, baseball."
I relax. Matt Cain has a six run lead. I learn about the ideal chemical content of bells. Something about the aluminum making the brass jiggle instead of crack, or vice-versa, or something. Class ends, and as we gather by the door I check the score again. 6-3. Okay. Not ideal, but I can work with this. More disconcerting is that my iPod is near death. I go to lit, and find out on the way that my buddy Eric is a casual Giants fan. He tells me to give him a sign when we clinch. My lit teacher is a hardass, so I have to be discreet. My next few dozen checks come up 6-3, and the game seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. The game should have ended by now. It was the seventh at the end of chem, and an hour into lit, it’s the middle of the eighth. What was happening? Eric keeps looking over, hoping for news, and I can only shrug. The Reds, of course, were getting runners on like crazy, but I couldn’t see them. I was trapped, fated to helplessly watch events fail to unfold. I was deprived of the usual fan’s comfort of thinking I can change what’s going on because I don’t know what’s going on. The eighth passes.
We’re in the computer lab now, researching with our groups various aspects of Chinese culture in preparation for The Joy Luck Club. At least, they are. My group members shoot me annoyed glances as I stare at my now-almost-dead screen. 6-4. The ninth.
Still the ninth.
Still the ninth.
Stop it, baseball. End it, Sergio. I refresh. I refresh again. 6-4, Final! I whoop. I high-five Eric. In fact, I high-five everyone. Even Josh, the tool. We won. We were moving on.