Every now and again, those of us who love baseball – who obsess over it, who are fanatics about it, whose very daily being across the seven-plus months from early April to early November are defined by it – find the quirkiest ways possible to express this affinity, this fealty, this passion, this devotion.
This was just before midnight, just before Wednesday night melted into Thursday morning, just after Game 7 of the World Series has exhausted nine full innings without resolution, necessitating extra innings. Baseball fans everywhere had just spent the commercial break acquiring their second wind – and perhaps an extra beer from the fridge – when FOX’s broadcast returned.
And were greeted by what is normally the most aggravating scene in the sport: a grounds crew, and a tarpaulin, and players jogging off the field, and raindrops (which always look heavier on TV than in real life anyway) filling the screen, and Joe Buck, rather apologetically, saying, “Well ….”
A rain delay? Now?
But here was the best part: all of the baseball fans I know – and I’m guessing most of the ones you know – didn’t mind. Not one bit. Hell, it was almost midnight, and people that I know who had 6 a.m. alarm clocks waiting for them were still up and it seemed like all of them were blowing up my phone.
Best rain delay ever!
Hope this lasts all night!
Sleep is overrated!
If they can’t finish this game, that means baseball season will never end.
Probably my favorite observation came in accordance with that last text, and it was a tweet from the terrific writer Jimmy Traina, who observed just after the delay began: “I want this rain delay to last 2 hours and then I want 4 or 5 more innings.”
And you know something? That was right on. That was exactly it. Baseball fans can be brutal on their sport from time to time, an anger rooted in deep love, the way a couple who have been married for 50 years can still get into a loud fight over who’s supposed to take out the recycling.
We can complain and kvetch for hours on end, about replay, about how pitchers don’t go nine innings anymore, about how you can’t run over the damned catcher any longer, about how they’ll cart you away in a paddy wagon if you try to break up a double play, about too many night games, about too few doubleheaders, about $200 million contracts and managers who breed migraines with their strategies and how nobody ever bunts against the shift.
And there we all were, a couple of minutes in front of midnight, a tarp on the ground at Progressive Field, and nary a complaint anywhere. Because this was a game – and a World Series – and a season – so good that it seemed an excellent time to remember one of baseball’s timeless gifts: the absence of a clock. You play till it’s over. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.
Sometimes it rains.
And when you add in the dueling droughts of 1908 and 1948, and that the Cubs had come back from 3-1 down in the Series, and that the Indians had come back from 5-1 down in the game, and that every move that Phi Beta Kappa manager Joe Maddon made was turning to dust, and the delirious crowds inside (and outside) Progressive Field, and the masses gathered in Wrigleyville …
And the overwhelming majority of us, without a dog in the hunt, just enjoying the wonder and the beauty of heart-stopping baseball …
Well, look, we all know there’s a pace-of-play problem in the game. We have all fallen asleep on Sunday night Mets-Giants games, on Yankees-Red Sox games that stretch longer than the Paleozoic Era. There were too many four-hour playoff games. Sometimes you want to tackle a manager before he can make another pitching change …
And yet there we were, all of us, wondering if maybe, just maybe, this would be the year when baseball season never ended, when summer never ended. Funny thing? The delay only lasted 17 minutes, and then the Cubs quickly went about the business of slaying their ghosts and their goats. One of the great World Series ever received a fitting conclusion. You couldn’t squeeze even one ounce more out of the game, or the Series, or the season.
But we tried.