The season is slipping away.
There is the one sense, the Astros sense, in which a season full of mediocrity drives finally home, as the time for miracles (an Astros specialty in the last decade) ticks away. Sometimes even the math doesn’t allow for them (I’m not even going to check the math on the Astros chances. That seems like rechecking a losing lottery ticket, just to make sure I hadn’t misread it the first ten times). In that sense, I suppose the season has already slipped sloppily away. The Pennant threw a hook and now it’s dancing in the sunlight with the Cardinals and the rest of them.
In the second sense, the whole season is slipping away. The WHOLE season, encompassing the broad range of experiences, of games and stories and opportunities and long summer days and giddy spring days. Everything I wanted to do with this baseball season, I’ve either done or I haven’t done. The New Season’s Resolutions go into two piles: Did and Didn’t. As students go back to school and start fresh, the baseball season stales (is “stales” too negative? For Cards fans and Yankees fans, the season is ripening).
Even if I had achieved all of the season’s goals, the nearing end is still a melancholy eventuality, just like the end of anything novel, of anything that aches with possibility, that thrums with adventure and freshness. It’s not like getting to the end of a good book, because even a good book takes a little while to get into, to understand the rhythm of the narrative and the voices calling out. A baseball season is a firecracker from the start, from the first pitch of Spring Training so long ago. If the season is a book, it’s a familiar book that you’ve never read but that you can sense on some deep subconscious level that you will enjoy. And it’s a book that you know you’ll only read in the best time of the year.
Waxing melancholy isn’t much of a way to welcome the postseason, when all of the langor and the mellow of the season is canned like a sardine and lit on fire, when each pitch is as tense as a regular season game’s final pitch. Every pitch is a last pitch in the playoffs. I’m glad the Astros have been there before, that I know what it’s really like. It’s tough, then, to watch the playoffs vicariously. This weird book’s ending is not unexpected, but it lacks for a happy ending. Happy endings aren’t requisite, of course, for a book to be good but really, who doesn’t like a happy ending?