At the end of the year, I always find myself fidgeting around as I try to figure out what I'm going to write about now that the season is over. I didn't initially plan on writing about the orgy of fun that was last night; I was going to write about an NL Central All Star team, and merely mention what happened last night as an intro to the rest of the post.
But once I found myself actually thinking about last night, and actually writing about it, I realized something: if we aren't thinking, and talking, about last night, then we're not properly appreciating everything that this game is about. Because for one night, we were served the ultimate platter.
Everyone knew it could be special. We had four teams battling for two playoff spots, all of it boiling down to two games. It was like getting together a bunch of wizards, witches and fairies; a recipe for magic, if you will. But looking back, we really had no idea how crazy things would get. I'm guessing that nobody predicted what I'm dubbing now as The Inception Comeback: a comeback within a comeback.
You simply couldn't write this stuff (Chris Nolan, don't even try). I mean, seriously, how many times have the Rays appeared to be screwed this season? People thought they might be done in March, after losing Garza, Crawford, Pena and all of those relievers. Lots of people thought they were toast after Manny Ramirez left the team just a few games into the season. Pretty much everyone was ready to hand Boston the wild card while the Rays were staring at a 9.5-game deficit on September 2.
All of those things, they built into last night. Showing everyone that their roster, even after losing so many big names, was still worthy of competing in baseball's hardest division. Proving to the world that losing a hitter of Manny's caliber wouldn't hamstring the offense into mediocrity. Making up nearly ten games in the standings in just four weeks, when the odds of doing so were less than 1 PERCENT.
And then came last night, with the Rays down 7-0 in the eighth inning to the freaking New York Yankees. They had constantly seemed to be done in, but were Tampa fans ever more convinced of their team's failed comeback than that instant? This is why last night felt like a million kinds of fun shoved into one box (off-topic thought: someone should make that): because really, this was like a comeback within a comeback within a comeback within a comeback. Somebody should have called Leo Dicaprio and that guy from 500 Days of Summer.
If you really wanted to get a gist of what the experience of last night felt like, all one would really need to do is check out the Twitter feeds of baseball's many personalities. That is, if you can tolerate profanity. I have to imagine that last night set some sort of "curse word" record within the baseball industry, particularly for phrases like "F--- yes!!!" and "Holy f-----g s--t."
Or, if your Andrew Martin, you're so excited that you can't even type out words: "Knjmljcgioijitttgggjjlojbcdeddjbbb"
Yes, Andrew, knjmljcgioijitttgggjjlojbcdeddjbbb indeed.
It was just hard to hold back anything last night. I don't have cable access at home, and most of my friends are in a similar predicament (college!), so I wasn't able to watch most of the games. I was lucky to get glimpses of a grainy Sean Rodriguez though ESPN3 when my Internet was willing to cooperate. But I didn't even care. I wanted to see the games, but the emotion was palpable just from reading the tweets of those that actually had their eyes on them. This was sports in its most utterly fantastic form.
Minutes after it happened, I was able to watch the DoJo home run on MLB.com; even when I knew that line drive was going to smack off the foul poll, I still got goosebumps. Watching it live must have been positively surreal; I have dreams about my fandom coming to peaks as exciting as that one swing. I stared at those Tampa fans with a good deal of envy, to be honest. I want my team to make me feel way. I'm a Chicago fan with no rooting interest in anything that happened last night, and I still had to walk around my room at midnight picking up pieces of my jaw off the carpet.
We all love baseball, and now we can all confidently point towards last night when people struggle to grasp that affection. Why is baseball awesome? Because last night was the equivalent of the Cincinnati Bengals making a monster run to catch up to the Steelers in the standings, culminating with a 31-point fourth quarter comeback over the Patriots. Except for the problem that football never goes as high on the awesome scale as baseball did last night.
I'll end my rant now, and move on to actually writing about this year's NL Central All Star Team. I didn't plan on writing this much about last night, but I also never planned on having September 28th go down as one of the best days in baseball history. I think we should all get a big "Thank You" card together, sign it, and send it to the Red Sox and Rays for making this a season that none of us will ever forget.