I’m sure you’re tired of hearing this, but wow, what a night for baseball September 28th turned out to be.
I usually don’t like to throw my voice into such an over saturated market of baseball commentary, but I can’t help it. I’m tired of listening to people who’ve never played the game for a living bash, justify, rationalize, and otherwise divine reasons for how two teams that should be in the playoffs are not, while two teams that shouldn’t be are.
My friends, any player can tell you that baseball is not fair, and yet, baseball is also the most fair game there is, proven handily by last night’s happenings. Teams that refused to quit despite long odds were rewarded, and teams that had hold of victory found a way to let it go. It was a triumph and a punishment all rolled into one. While what side of these semantics you find yourself on may differ, the one thing I think we can all agree on is: it was damn good entertainment.
I don’t mean to sound like anyone’s dad here, but, while so much of the world sits around today, hair blow straight back, repeating, “I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it,” I can totally believe it. That’s because, during this time of year, players are not immune to what is coming—the end.
The season is going to be over, and their 162 game marathons will finally be decided. For some teams, the value of their season may have been decided many games back. For others, the next six games could very well pronounce the last 156 a complete success, or total bust.
How a player in contention responds to this pressing sense of finality is crucial.
For the player in the lead, the mind tends to gravitate to thoughts of what it would be like it to lose said lead. This player must fight back a constant sense of fear; one that breads doubt and worry about things outside his control.
His team has something to lose; what if it’s his fault the team loses it? Could you imagine what the fan base would do to him? Could you imagine what a fan base like the RED SOX would do to him? He can—from hero to pariah in the blink of an eye.
You may say that a player has been paid a lot of money to perform in the face of this fear, and I hear you completely, but the mind is a funny thing. Sometimes we know exactly what is happening in our heads and still can’t control it.
“How can I,” asks the player, “go from a man so full of confidence that I captured the lead, now find myself so scared of loosing it that it seems inevitable I will?” Pressure, hype, media, and the steady stream of unchecked what-ifs, that’s how.
Even the most stalwart of players have this fear. They are better at controlling, usually because experience has taught them how dangerous it can be if they don’t. But, apply enough pressure in the right places and even the strongest minds can crack. In a game of inches and split seconds it only takes a little doubt to wreck a whole season.
On the other hand, the power of a team in the hunt, that feels it has nothing to lose, should never be underestimated.
It’s not often that a team can feel empowered in their weakness, but that’s exactly how teams that are not in contention become winners. They are fearless, and the thought that dominates their mind is the one of them beating the odds, and being the heroes.
Instead of thinking, “what if I am the reason we lose?” the players that make up this team think, “what if I am the reason we WIN!” And what better thought is there to think in a game of inches and seconds than that?
Last night, more so than any other I can think of in recent baseball history, we watched teams cripple themselves with doubt, and empower themselves with belief. Yes, baseball is not fair, but for the player who believes he has nothing to loose and everything to gain, it’s more than fair, and always will be.