It’s October, which means the baseball playoffs are now in full swing. Our beloved Baltimore Orioles (note that I say “our” even though one of us—not me—is more partial to the Phillies) are still alive, all set to light up Camden Yards tonight in Game One of the American League Championship Series. Their opponents, the endearing Royals of Kansas City (which, coincidentally, is a nice place to visit, and an even nicer place to get some barbeque), are an erstwhile charity case of a franchise which, only a few days ago, ended a 29-year playoff absence . . . and then proceeded to miraculously win four straight games, beating the A’s 9-8 in an insanely enthralling wild card play-in game, and then sweeping the mighty Angels (the team with the best record in baseball) three games to none in the Division Series. They’re the sentimental favorites, which is what happens when you’ve just gotten through a 29-year streak of unprecedented failure.
I haven’t written about baseball lately, probably because I’m a superstitious type where sports are concerned. I learned it early, you see. My family—sports maniacs, all of us—has a ritual where we castigate anyone who takes a prematurely optimistic view about a sporting event in which our favorite teams are involved, before the outcome is conclusively decided. This tendency has its origins in caution, and in a history of broken hearts (we’re Cubs fans too, did I mention?), but we take things to extremes. My dad is most often the culprit, and the subsequent victim, of our derangement. It’ll be late in a ballgame where our team has the lead (say, a four- or five-run lead), and he will get up from his chair in the ninth inning, with, I don’t know, one out and nobody on base and the bottom of the opposing team’s batting order due up, and he’ll smile happily and say something like, “Well, what a game, indeed!” The outcry against him will be instantaneous, our judgment swift. We lay into him, man. There’s no excuse for tempting fate like that.
On second thought, I’m not saying one thing more. Let’s just get down to it.