Sometimes I think we all know too much or at least retain too much for our own good. Maybe it's the Internet and what it can tell us, maybe it's all the videotape that has presumably converted to a digital format. Maybe we don't replace enough old data in our heads with new data. But I've noticed a trend among fans and media alike, one that explodes this time of year.
When something big happens in baseball, something really big, everybody blurts out something else it reminds them of. Josh Paul hadn't gotten to the dugout in Game Two of the ALCS before the name Don Denkinger had passed a million lips. Albert Pujols wasn't around the bases the other night and everybody and his uncle from Framingham were Dave Henderson experts.
Baseball's beauty lies in the ability to match events of now to events of then, and that's cool. But when did the average spectator turn into his own private Elias? It used to be (and I have no statistical evidence) that a guy could watch a game, see something, absorb it and, hours or weeks later, think, “hey, you know what that reminds me of?” Nowadays, by cracky, graphics are filling the screen telling us the last eight times this exact scenario unfolded, talkies are jamming their frequencies insisting that, no, this isn't as good as that but that wasn't as good as this and each viewer (myself included) is shouting, “nah, you're all wrong—it's like that other time.”
The bats and the ball aren't even cold by the time accomplishments are shoved into historical context. What's the point?
ESPN Classic has a halfway-decent show called Classic Now in which they take a sporting event in the news and compare it one in the archives (like us, they have a lot of air to fill). They had on Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle to discuss where Pujols' LCS-saver ranks for all-time. Oh, it's up there with Mazeroski, he said.
It is? Did the Cardinals just win the World Series? Because that's what Bill Mazeroski's bottom-of-the-ninth home run did. Pujols' did not. Did it occur to anybody that the Cardinals might not win one of the next two games? Granted, the circumstances for Albert's were dramatic and the Astros are no doubt wondering what they have to do to get a break for the ages, but a ninth-inning home run that puts the visitors ahead with one before the home team comes to bat in the fifth of seven possible games is not the same as what Bill Mazeroski's was.
What is it like? How about it's a totally awesome shot that deserves to be savored on its own merit and it was a blast whose context could use a little time to divine? In the meantime, we've got another game to enjoy.
This isn't just the post-season. It happens a lot. Remember August 30, the Ramon Castro game? All of Metsopotamia tripped over itself to rank our catcher's three-run shot, how it must be the biggest since [fill-in-the-blank], how it has to rank among great Met moments, how we will remember it twenty years from now. Based on what happened in the ensuing games against Philly, Florida and Atlanta, we'd be lucky to remember it twenty minutes from now…except we've created a public record, almost a shrine, to it.
This is weird. This is the opposite of what usually gets on my nerves, namely the memory hole down which all amazing, magical, miraculous baseball feats fall save for Kirk Gibson's overhyped homer (it was Game One, for crissake) and whatever it is the Mick did when Billy Crystal invited Bob Costas and Mike Francesa over for Ovaltine and graham crackers in 1961. Lots of great stuff that's huge in its time disappears from the conversation a year or two down the road.
Tremendous LDS and LCS moments evaporate because it's easier to reference Carlton Fisk. Lists get made and little of what tingled our spine show up. I seem to recall two walkoff home runs by Jeff Kent and Jim Edmonds electrified last year's NLCS. Why did those fall down the memory hole in favor of Mazeroski and Dave Henderson?
Depending on what happens in the next night or two, I'd wager an unpleasant five-dollar slice of Shea pizza that the next time somebody does something akin to what Albert Pujols did in Game Five, what Albert Pujols did in Game Five will be largely overlooked in the instantaneous “where does it rank/what does it remind you of?” chat that follows.