It's hard to escape the role of obsessed fan when watching other teams in the playoffs. I find myself constantly looking at my homemade "WWBD?" bracelet and thinking, yeah, what would Barry do? When the White Sox would have a runner in scoring position against Kelvim Escobar, it was natural to ponder how Ray Durham would have approached the situation. Or how Omar Vizquel would have approached the situation. Or if Pedro Feliz would have jammed a 9-volt battery in his ear, trying to get enough extra juice for his brain to formulate its first ever approach to hitting.
With the White Sox in the Series, and the Astros painfully close, it looks as if the season is going to come down to two teams with a history of losing. The Giants fan can relate. The winner will have an on-field celebration, a tearful parade, and the blissful knowledge that thousands of long-suffering old folks can die happy. The loser will slink off to the all-too cozy loser's den, where the Giants will fetch them a blanket, and the Cubs will hand them a cup of cocoa. They put in those little marshmallows, you know.
One group of fans is going to come so close, and then tumble down the hill, having to start all over again. They'll have their goats. Jermaine Dye will slip on a banana peel, or Jason Lane will end an inning by swinging at a pickoff throw to first. The hero that allows the Cardinals to overcome the odds and make the Series, might be the guy who throws an all-time unfortunate wild pitch. As upset as this Giants season made me, the feeling I have for the fans of the remaining teams doesn't come close to envy. Pity is more like it.
A vivid memory I can't shake is of the day of Game Six, looking into my bathroom mirror, and thinking, "The Giants can actually win the World Series today. Win it. Win the World Series. They just need to win one game." I also remember wondering if I should run to Safeway to get champagne right around the sixth inning. If the World Series does come down to the White Sox and Astros, there are going to be a whole bunch of fans who have never come close to having similar thoughts. They'll have no choice at some point.
One set of fans will watch their team win. I don't know what that feels like. One set of fans will watch their team lose, have their stomach knot up as if they ate a ball-peen hammer, and carry that feeling around for a decade or so. Just thinking about it makes me glad the Giants didn't drag a below-average team through the playoffs this season. I have trust issues.