Warning: This turns into what could definitely pass for a Livejournal post. Just rambling nonsense.
Remember last week? That was pretty cool, huh? I haven’t even been paying all that much attention to the playoffs due to a combination of busyness and the knowledge that nothing will top last Wednesday night. The simultaneous collapses of the Red Sox and Braves, along with the all-but-impossible comeback by the Rays, have been discussed endlessly already, and I feel like most people (other than Red Sox and Braves fans) have moved on. So while the framework of this post will be the events of the end of the regular season, it’s really just about how freaking awesome baseball fans are. I guess “people with the same interests as me are the coolest” could also work.
Baseball lends itself to absolute obsession. Something like football — or even soccer over in Europe, from what I know about the schedule — is more compatible with, you know, having a life. Football allows you to set one day of the week away (and ok, Monday night, too) to turn into a worthless slob on the couch and watch either your local games or the Red Zone channel if you an ADD-addled fantasy player. Baseball is there almost every night you come home from work and on the weekends, too.
Please direct your eyes to the chart on the right. Look at that time commitment. So try to imagine what it’s like if a person is a baseball fan in the sense of attempting to follow all 30 teams — usually for fantasy knowledge purposes. I know that I became a better and more intelligent fan once I delved into fantasy baseball head-first a few years back. The result is being able to talk to any other baseball fan for practically an infinite amount of time. Not that I wasn’t able to do that already, but now I can do it with fans of any team almost as well as with Mets fans. I would joke about the Astros possibly being an exception, but past Tuesday night is evidence against this.
After a Sunday where I had a great time hanging out with fellow Mets fans during a Fangraphs (and River Avenue Blues and Amazin’ Avenue) meetup that turned into a middle school dance where girls and boys were replaced with Yankees and Mets fans, my hunger for real life baseball discussion had been whetted. While our Mets fan contingent did talk a bit about the depressing topic of our chosen team, there was also plenty of discussion about the on-going football games and good television shows. If I truly wanted to immerse myself in baseball, I would have to watch teams that still actually mattered, so Tuesday night on my home after a late class, I decided I should go to Foley’s NY to check out the four games that would help decide whether the Red Sox and Braves would provide schadenfreude for the rest of the country.
I had already been there before and knew that it is baseball fan heaven, with every television showing a baseball game, signed balls lining the walls, and a Don Zimmer fathead in the bathroom watching you piss into the urinals. I sat down at the bar and saw that the four televisions situated along its length were showing the four relevant games. There was probably no place on earth I would have rather been. Oh, I’m sure the MLB FanCave had all the games on, but fuck that place.
The night didn’t get really good until an older Astros fan sat down next to me and started berating the Cardinals fans sitting a few stools down on the other side of me. I just laughed and told him that I was with those “pussy Cardinals fans” for tonight, considering I wanted the Braves to miss the playoffs. From then on, we talked about 1986 (even though I was born during that season), Roger Clemens being an asshole, Nolan Ryan being a steroid user, Carlos Beltran being a clutch player, “Harvard turds” ruining baseball with stats, and how much the Cardinals suck. All right, it was mostly him talking, but it was immensely entertaining. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to turn away at some point to talk more to the attractive girl with an Irish accent who had sat down next to me, but the Texan would not stop talking. He had now moved on to other things, like his brother who had written for SNL and had made some YouTube videos. By the time the siege on my attention had been lifted, it was too late to stick around any longer, unless I wanted to get home on the LIRR as the sun was coming up. I wasn’t upset though, as I was able to have a conversation with a fan of the terrible organization that is the Astros for the sole reason that we shared love for baseball. Sure, his opinions might have been all over the place, but sometimes you have to hear from people outside of the saber-twitter-blogsphere, right?
Sometime during the night, I overheard a girl ask about a Cardinals fan meetup at Foley’s. It explained the Cardinals fans strewn around the bar, and also made me think of God Save The Fan, which I had recently read (and I’ve been meaning to write a review of along with the book I bought it with on Amazon, The Postmortal). In it, Will Leitch talks about finding a bar in Manhattan to watch the 2006 NLCS with other Cardinals fans (this is where I stopped reading the book). I told myself I’d ask him on Twitter whether he was talking about Foley’s. But not before I was at Foley’s again the very next night to watch the same eight teams play four games on the last night of the regular season.
The bar was a bit more packed on Wednesday night, though. When I managed to find a seat at the bar after a little while, it was pretty much in the same spot as before. This time, I was situated next to a Cards fan. This might have had to do with pretty much everyone at the bar being a Cards fan. There were a few Red Sox fans, too. If you magically appeared in the bar, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t have guessed it was in NYC. This Cards fan was surprised that I was rooting for his team, considering 2006; I told him that the Braves were like a sadistic bully that beat on Mets fans for most of their childhood. Comparatively, I still remember thinking the 2006 NLCS would just be a bump in the road. Sigh.
We sat there talking about the state of the Mets, how much money Albert Pujols will get this offseason (and from which team), the young pitching staff of the Rays, the embarrassment that is Carl Crawford, among other things. Meanwhile, the Rays had spotted a huge lead to the Yankees, the Cards had crushed the Astros in the first inning, and the Phillies-Braves and Red Sox-Orioles matchups were tight games. I downed beer and beer, sharing a bucket of bottles with the Cards fan, while watching the drama unfold with hardcore baseball fans all around me. To be a Cards fan out to watch the game in a NYC midtown bar on a weeknight means you are most likely dedicated. And at one point, I turned around to see the very guy who I wanted to ask about his Cards fan NYC bar story.
As Leitch seemed involved with a conversation with a lady, I struck up a conversation with his buddy (who looked vaguely familiar and whose name I cannot remember now). But once I mentioned that I wanted to ask Leitch something, he introduced me as awkwardly as possible to embarrass me. I probably deserved it. The minute I mentioned God Save The Fan, Leitch apologized for it being out-of-date already. Even when I said the only reasons I bought his book were its bargain price and Amazon recommending it when I bought The Postmortal, Leitch was suitably self-deprecating. I guess that should probably be expected from a guy whose first book was titled Life as a Loser. Leitch was also surprised to hear I was rooting for the Cards, but I told him how I want Braves fans to feel my pain. I bet some Braves fans think they’ll be back in the playoffs next year and for years to come (like I felt about the Mets in 2006), but maybe Jason Heyward won’t become a Hall of Famer and maybe Tommy Hanson will have injury issues. Or maybe the Mets will become the best te. . . nevermind.
But once again, I was able to effortlessly strike up a baseball conversation with another person, albeit a much shorter one, before I returned to my seat and my original Cards fan companion for the night. Leitch really did seem like a nice guy (he even offered me a beer!), which makes sense considering the transformation Deadspin has made since he gave up his editing duties. Despite Buzz Bissinger ripping him on Costas Live years ago for lack of integrity, the site has only gotten progressively more grimy under A.J. Daulerio. But I know Leitch and other people support him, so whatever, I won’t make this about how Deadspin was better with Leitch was editor. I mean, it was, but let’s get back on topic. Is there a topic here?
Oh yeah, despite Evan Longoria going into beast mode, the Rays were still trailing the Yankees; the Phillies-Braves game had gone into extras; and the Red Sox were looking like they were going to win their game against the Orioles. Then the timeline of madness that I can’t remember nor be bothered to look up broke out, starting with the Phillies beating the Braves to knock the latter out of the playoffs, making the Cardinals fans go crazy. Then a little while later, Dan Johnson hit a 9th-inning, game-tying home run with two outs and two strikes. Then a beer later, the Red Sox choked away a 9th-inning lead for the first time all year. Then only a few sips later, Longoria hit another home run to send the Rays to the playoffs and Red Sox home. It was a blurry night of cheers and high-fives by then, as I guess everyone not from Boston was happy to see Red Sox fans suffer again. It’s like order was restored in the baseball universe, and I was in the NYC nexus of it.