Thanks to a fairly brutal stretch in the life of a freelance writer, I’d fallen asleep before the last out of every World Series game so far.
If I’m fated to only stay awake for one, at least I picked the right one.
If you like your baseball spine-tingling, heart-stopping and cliche-channeling, Game 6 was a game for you. Or perhaps more accurately, if you like all of those things you enjoyed the second half of Game 6. And if you like your baseball ragged and slapsticky to the point of wondering if there should be a keg at second base, the first half of Game 6 answered your prayers. Someday, it’s possible a grandchild will ask me for World Series superlatives. Sloppiest World Series game? Most-riveting one? If we subtract the ones in which I had a highly personal stake, they might just be the same game.
Also to be noted: We get another day of baseball. At this point on the calendar, with the threat of imminent snow and endless winter, a Game 7 is welcome for most any slate short of Yankees-Phillies. And if the powers that be could arrange a Game 8, I’d sign up for that too.
My rooting interest in this World Series has been a mild preference for Texas. The Rangers have never won a World Series (they’d never even been until getting Cinderella’ed last year by the Giants), which is a long hard road for a franchise that came into existence a year before we did. And I don’t start the clock at 1972, when the former Senators II took up residence in Arlington. Surely there must have been a few baseball-mad kids whose families left D.C. for the sprawling environs of Dallas at the beginning of the 1970s. Those kids have had it rough, and they’re overdue for a winter of dazed smiles and pinch-mes.
The Cardinals, by comparison, are the closest thing the National League has to the Yankees, with recent titles on their resume. Their fans can wait. Plus, while I don’t particularly begrudge Yadier Molina doing his job against Aaron Heilman in a game you probably remember, I detest Tony La Russa for his frantic overmanaging, cynical browbeating of the press corps and chronic need to call attention to himself. So I’m for Texas — but only mildly. Gray-bearded Lance Berkman and high-flying David Freese and the indomitable, carved-from-granite El Hombre have all put on quite a show, and I wouldn’t be that disappointed to see them find a happy ending at the end of their highly unlikely tale.
But back to a theme that’s intrigued me all year: storytelling. Both the Cardinals and the Rangers are terrific teams made up of unbelievable athletes whose lives are consumed by baseball. Neftali Feliz isn’t a choker any more than Freese is gritty or clutch or possessed of the magical quality of knowing how to win. (And if God told Josh Hamilton he was meant to hit a homer, he left out that there was a celestial check mark by Freese’s name too.)
Still, storytelling is how we fans navigate the hours and days and weeks and years, because that’s how we’re wired. And oh what storytelling awaits these teams, should St. Louis win Game 7. Should that happen, it will be a good decade at least before a Cardinals fan concedes defeat, having escaped the hangman in such thrilling fashion not once but twice in the dwindling hours of October. On the flip side, the Rangers will graduate to the ranks of the star-crossed, playing 2012 with the Sword of Davidfreese hanging over their heads. And if 2012 doesn’t bring them that title, look out. They’ll be in Cubs and Indians territory.
The other potential outcome is less dramatic, and from a neutral point of view much kinder: If Texas wins tonight, they enter baseball’s promised land, while this year’s Cardinals team remains forever beloved.
Either way, I’ll be watching. And with this kind of baseball upon us, something tells me I’ll be awake.