There are lots of baseball games like tonight's — taut little affairs that are closer than the final score indicates, not a lot of scoring, good pitching performances but not anything that leaps up and demands to be counted as brilliant, a long ball to admire, a managerial decision (of the non-fatal variety) to scratch your head at, most plays made, a couple not, most calls made properly, a couple not. Just a baseball game, in other words — one not much to be remembered beyond a moment or two that will become detached from the narrative and later need to be reaffixed to the proper date, but one for the lifers among us to enjoy as a fine use of two hours and change.
The first moment that will endure is Clifford's attempt to launch the world's first cowhide satellite; it was marvelous to see a week's worth of frustration and buzzard's luck vanish in the time it took to say Ohmahgawd, which is more or less the sound I made seeing that ball seeming to pick up speed as it exited stage right on its way to McCovey Cove.
The other? It was Bonds (it's always Bonds) just trying to remain upright, whether it was dragging his way around the bases on one of his final homers, or leaping the approximate height of a medium-sized city's yellow pages in his failed attempt to steal Nady's home run away. Watching Bonds struggle from Point A to Point B, I didn't say Ohmahgawd; I just kind of muttered and stared lemon-faced at the screen, not quite sure what to think, because I was thinking everything at once.
The normal reaction watching a professional athlete passing from twilight to night is a mix of pity that he (or she, for that matter) doesn't know his time has passed — athletes are almost always the last to know, betrayed in the end by the willful disbelief that let them become stars in the first place. To that, add in amazement that his time is finally gone, that he's at last been rendered mortal. And then comes, usually, some mix of appreciation (there he is, for one of the last times) and disquiet (my goodness, I remember when he was young — I must be getting old too).
And I did feel some of that strange mix for Bonds. But I also felt other things. The pity alternated with a determined refusal to feel it, for Bonds knows exactly what's happening to him, and on some level must grasp that it's his fault, that he and nobody else did the things to his body that grotesquely reshaped it and in doing so ensured its sudden, shocking ruin. There was anger at baseball for this whole terrible mess, for its shameful efforts to conceal what was happening from itself and for whatever stumblingly pathetic attempts it will make in an impossible effort to put things right. And there was sadness, once again, that Bonds could ruin his own name and numbers and legacy so thoroughly, and for whatever bottomless insecurity lies at heart of him and drove him to cheat when he didn't need to.
Bonds is like a man who lives alone in the penthouse of the tallest building in the city, and in his solitude becomes consumed with rage that he doesn't live at an even loftier height. And so he tears apart his own house to built some rickety contraption reaching ever higher into the sky, as the neighbors watch in horror through their binoculars. Now it's popping bolts and rivets and coming apart, and all you can do is look away.
Ah, enough gloom. We won. Cliff hit a monster shot. Everybody else in the East lost. And we're done with these post-midnight endurance tests for a bit. Life ain't so bad.