Sunday, September 21, 2008

October Is The Cruelest Month

Forgive me; I'm about to wax poetic.

The first day of fall is almost upon us. We know this, of course, because the pennant race is winding up. But also because the advertisements for eggnog lattes are hitting Starbucks windows. And, by the way, the reemergence of the peppermint latte will be your sign that it’s winter.

Despite my unspeakable sadness over the end of an incredible era in The House That Ruth Built, there is something poetic about closing up shop on the last night of summer. Not that I wouldn’t have preferred an evening in late October. But if it couldn’t happen in the postseason, better that it should happen with the close of the season—the way it was meant to, according to Bart Giamatti, former Commissioner of baseball.

Giamatti starts his essay "Green Fields of the Mind," by saying, “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rain comes, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

The other day, I expressed annoyance about the fact that our boys had chosen such an inopportune time to go on such a winning tear. I want to clarify something, lest anyone get the wrong idea. I said that it was too late for us to end our season with pride, and I still think that’s true. However, I want to say for the record that I credit the Bombers for holding on to the principle of Try Your Hardest. Sure, it has been with a certain amount of frustration that I have watched them suddenly come to life—now that it’s a moot point. But it would have been easy to just roll over and die this week. And I’m glad that the principle of TYH overrode any inclination they might have had to do that.

However, tonight, I’m afraid that that principle simply isn’t going to be enough. Tonight, our boys are going to have to draw on another, rarely applicable but infinitely more important principle—the principle of Don’t Under Any Circumstance Lose The Last Game That You Are Ever Going To Play At Your Home Stadium. See, unlike suddenly winning when it doesn’t count, the principle of DUACLTLGTYAEGTPAYHS? Totally a matter of pride. More than that, it’s a matter of respect. Respect for a tradition, for a long line of legendary players, historical moments, and magical late inning comebacks. I hate to weight this game with unnecessary pressure, but to lose tonight? It would be like spitting in the face of Lou Gehrig. Babe Ruth. Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio. Yogi Berra. Roger Maris. Thurman Munson. Reggie Jackson. Don Mattingly. Paul O’Neill. Bernie Williams. You get the point.

So, while history may not remember what you boys did these last two weeks, it will certainly remember what you do tonight. And presumably, so will you—as you sit in Starbucks this fall, like Mike Mussina, drinking eggnog lattes and writing poetry.

Despite another week on the road, tonight is the night that matters--the night that, for most of us, it really “stops,” as Giamatti said. Not just for the season, but for all eternity. So, make it a game to sustain us through the winter—a winter that will be longer than usual for us Yankee fans.

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