Like a horribly dysfunctional romance, my heart was shattered five months ago. Yet here I am, begging for another chance. And like clockwork, every April, I’ll get it. Such is the life of the loser.
In the waning weeks of fall, a champion is crowned in Major League Baseball. One team out of 30 will host a parade, and the others are sent packing.
Sometimes it’s in the end of October, sometimes it starts off November. But one thing is certain for the other 29. Winter always hits just a little too early.
As a lifelong fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, I haven’t tasted a World Series Championship yet, but I really do think this is our year. So do the Cubs though. And the Braves. And the Rangers. That’s always struck me as funny.
There are Las Vegas baseball experts somewhere right now coming up with fancy formulas and equations to guess the next champion. Sometimes they are even right.
An online betting site, http://www.BetEd.com, has the Pittsburgh Pirates listed at 20,000/1 odds to win the championship (a bit generous if you ask me).
Yet there is a Pirates fan somewhere knowing that this is the year that Paul Maholm is going to win 24 games and Pedro Alvarez is going to hit 40 homers and the Pirates are going to win 99 games and they’re going to win the pennant.
“If it were not for hopes, the heart would break.” Wrote Thomas Fuller, an English historian. If every year, the losers didn’t hope that they could win, then they would cease to be fans, and they would cease to love baseball.
Baseball is perfect because there are 162 games. Every team will win at least one of them. And every team will lose at least one of them. Baseball is perfect because perfection is impossible. This sport values a man with a .300 batting average. This means that he is doing well if he is bad 70 percent of the time. Any given day the loser could win, and the winner could pull a hamstring. This keeps us coming back for more heartbreak, because one day, we’ll be Cinderella.
Baseball is perfect because it reflects real life. We love our losers because we’re losers too.
When the Mariners went and got Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins last year, people were expecting big things. They lost 101 games and embarrassed themselves. The embarrassment was felt by fans as well.
Sometimes, it looks good on paper, but things just don’t go as planned. But they re-evaluated things in the offseason, and they think they made themselves better.
They hope they made themselves better. The real Seattle fans still love their team. You can’t lose faith because they fail, or else they’ll never ever win again. That’s true for life too.
Nothing and nobody is ever perfect but it’s about being perfect enough for nine innings, for seven games, for a few months.
But this is a trying relationship. Ideals aside, it’s just plain harder to love the loser, because it’s a lot more work. When the Rays were still the Devil Rays and they were still awful, I would read through countless stats, trying to find optimism.
I’d find it in the little things, like in their sacrifice hits and batting average against middle relievers and three or four wins against the Yankees.
Baseball is perfect because the losers are the real soldiers and their fans are the real diehards.
Baseball is perfect because the losers always have their hope.
This article was originally published here in The Minaret.