DC at Night

DC at Night

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Flashback - The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

This post 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC on Sept. 28, 2011. Enjoy our back in time trip

In this modern era of spoiled superstars, greedy billionaire owners, and crazed, alcohol-fueled fans  who think it's OK to assault someone simply for wearing the jersey of an opposing  team, it's difficult to remember why I once made sports such a cornerstone of my life. Then something happens to temporarily restore that lost magic, the idea that that anything - even the impossible - can occur on an athletic field. And tonight provided one of those times.

It began with a call from my former college roommate Steve Ferrara, who, like us, lives in the DC area. Now for the purposes of this story, there are 2 things you need to know about Steve - he pronounces a sentence like park your car in Harvard yard as "pahk your cah in Hahvard yahd" which, of course, means he is a die-hahd Boston Red Sox fan

Steve's Red Sox were  going to to be playing the Baltimore Orioles in that most exciting of sports situation - win or be done: capture the last game of the season and they would still have a chance to be in the Major League playoffs; lose and they could be going home to live with the stigma of the greatest collapse in baseball history. So when Steve suggested that Judy and I join him in Baltimore at the game, I readily agreed, especially since he said he would pick up the tab for the tickets.

My warm feelings for my former roommate soared when he asked if  we would mind, since the game meant so much to him, sitting directly behind home plate in the $99-a-ticket section. Object to those seats? Yeah, right.

So that's how I found myself sitting in prime home plate seats on a night that would make baseball history. Although all the 6 divisional championships had been decided, there was still a question of who would be the wild card teams. In the American League, it would either be the Red Sox or Tampa Bay, who were playing the Yankees in New York. The National League wild-card would be decided in games between the Philadelphia Phillies (my team) and the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis and Houston. In short, the setup meant that fans across the country would be watching the action on the scoreboard as intently as they would be watching the action on the field.

In Baltimore, the action on the field see-sawed; first the Red Sox were up, then the Orioles, then the Sox again. Initially, the scoreboard story was a different matter.  The Yankees stormed to a seemingly insurmountable 7-0 lead over Tampa Bay.  It looked Steve's Sox were headed to the playoffs. But then, as can happen is sports, the baseball gods decided to change the story line.  Miraculously, Tampa tied the Yanks, sending  the game into extra innings. 

And just to prove that their powers were not limited to 1 city, those same gods decided to intervene in Baltimore, too. The scene was set. The Red Sox were 3 outs away from victory. Their ace relief pitcher was on the mound. First batter; 1 out. Second batter, 2 outs. Steve, along with the 1000s of other Red Sox fans in Camden Yards, jumped to their feet , shouting, pleading, imploring their team for just 1 more out. Next batter.  A double to center. That's OK, no harm. Next batter ... oh NO, back to back doubles, game tied. Still, it's OK. One more out and we'll go to extra innings and win there.  The pitch ... the batter swings ... a sinking drive ... the left fielder, glove extended, flys toward the ball ... he'll get it ... he'll get it ... he's got it ... no, he doesn't ... a single ... the winning run scores .. game over ... Sox lose.

Stunned, slumped, but still standing, Steve listened to the explosion of joy from the Orioles players and fans.  He looked at his dejected Red Sox as they slunk off the field and back to the locker room.  It couldn't happen this way; it shouldn't happen this way. But it did. No matter how many televised replays, the outcome would always be the same - Orioles win. And, in a manner of minutes, it got even bleaker. Word began circulating around the stadium - Tampa Bay had accomplished the impossible; they had come back to beat the Yankees in extra innings.  The Rays, not the Red Sox, would be playing another day.

So, for Steve and the rest of the Red Sox nation, there was only one option - wait until next year.  But then that may be the true lesson of the night.  In sports, unlike life, there is always a next year.

Travelers' Tip:
If you ever attend a season-ending game at a stadium and you plan on eating, you should be prepared to amend your foot choices. When we ordered hot dogs, we found out that the dogs were fine, but the concession stand had run out of rolls. No problem - we switched to burgers. Then we ordered sodas and discovered the stand was out of diet drinks, but did have root beer. And, by the end of the night, there were no cups. Oh well, there is always next year for those first-food choices.

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