Sports are a silly thing.
I just took an overnight bus from St. Louis to Kansas City just so I could see my favorite team, the Baltimore Orioles, play one more playoff game against the Kansas City Royals. My roommates dropped me off on an abandoned street corner in downtown St. Louis at 12:45 where the bus stop was supposed to be. They had a chemistry exam to study for so I was on my own, except for the homeless man who oddly enough asked me if I wanted HIS jacket. After a good 20 minutes of confusion, my vehicular steed appeared out of the night. The Megabus had arrived.
Once seated upstairs, I began to doze off into slumber when I was suddenly awoken by the driver of the bus. Apparently someone had put a dog into the luggage compartment below and the driver was determined to deduce the identity of the owner. “WHO DOG? WHO DOG? WHO DOG?” he bellowed across the cabin. All of a sudden and to no one in particular he yelled, “HEY TRINA. CALL THE POLICE. WE GOT DOG.” Whether or not this man understood how to use the word “a” was extremely unclear. Eventually he grew bored of his crusade and returned to the steering wheel beneath me. It’s a shame too, I guess we’ll never know “WHO DOG” it really was.
Four and a half rocky hours of sleep later I arrived in Kansas City at 6 AM. Thankfully enough there was a diner right across from the bus stop where I was able to procure a hot meal. I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks, where I plan to be for the next hour or so until the library opens so I can finish Tolstoy’s War and Peace snag a quick nap. I spent over 250 bucks on the bus, hotel, and tickets for the game. And for what? So I can take a cab out to Kauffman Stadium to watch my team finish its swift playoff disintegration? So I can surround myself with (rightfully) ecstatic Royals fans who so eagerly anticipate their first AL title since 1985? So I can return to St. Louis defeated and dismayed?
The Orioles could very well win tonight, tomorrow, return home and take game 6 and 7. They could win four straight and become the second team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit. They could continue that momentum into the World Series and roll over the Giants/Cards. They could ignite the entire city of Baltimore with their resilient comebacks and memorable performances. Adam Jones could put his name up there with Cal, Brooks, and the boys by bouncing back from a rough start to the postseason and lead his team to the Promised Land. Nelson Cruz could further cement his argument as the greatest postseason power hitter of all time. Ubaldo Jimenez could get a World Series ring (LOL). By winning four straight this team could make an entire generation of O’s fans forget about a decade and a half of painful Augusts and boring Octobers.
Unfortunately, chances are that none of this happens.
The Orioles will probably lose this series. Jason Vargas will probably turn into tubby Kershaw 2.0 or James Shields will be James Shields or Terrance Gore will hit a walk off home run or any other number of absurd possible alternate realities will take place. I, and the rest of the rational baseball universe, know the Orioles don’t have a good chance, but I’m here in Kansas City nonetheless.
Baseball, and baseball fandom in particular, is all about the idea of possibility. There’s a reason fans make a premeditated decision to go to Florida or Arizona in the spring. There’s a reason Opening Day is sold out at almost every park. There’s a reason I’m sitting in this Starbucks on only 4 hours of sleep. We as fans latch on to hope and possibility, clinging to the edge of the cliff until survival is no longer possible. We all cherish the fact that one day, just maybe, that team lifting the trophy will be ours. We hold on until a championship team is mathematically impossible. We do these seemingly irrational things because sports provide us with comfort, community, and a sense of shared experience.
Tonight hundreds of thousands of Orioles fans will gather around their television sets, hoping that they won’t be doing so for the last time this season. They’ll suffer through numerous references to the fact that the “Royals just have it this year” (They actually do, and good for all the Royals fans. You really do deserve it). Enduring Adam Jones pop-out after Adam Jones pop-out they’ll remain in front of their TV’s because until that final out, there’s always a chance. Until a youthful throng of Royal blue races towards the pitchers mound in jubilation and until Kansas City is coated head to toe in mediocre champagne, there’s a reason for O’s fans to watch, there’s a reason for Baltimore to believe, there’s a reason I’ll be decked out in all my Orioles orange at game four later tonight.
So you’re sayin there’s a chance, eh?