Postseason Games! Blood, Sweat and ... Laughs!
I'm really, really tired. And it's not because I haven't gotten lots of sleep. And it's not because I haven't had lively exercise or fresh air. And it's not because I'm worrying about my kids and their kids, though I do that now and then.
It's because MY TEAM IS WONDERFUL! GRAND! EXCELLENT! MY TEAM IS PLAYING CHAMPIONSHIP BASEBALL FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP!
A few weeks ago, when I got the notice that I could buy tickets for the postseason -- THE POSTSEASON -- I inhaled (a lot). Then I exhaled. And just plain plunked down the dough, crossed my fingers, toes, eyes and hoped I would use them. They arrived in this enormous cardboard envelope -- lovely, large, colorful tickets. I put them in my drawer and wondered whether they would be used.
Game 1 of Postseason Play
Three hours before the first game, I felt as if I'd been chosen to pitch. Seriously, I felt as shaky as I did before taking my college entrance exams (I threw up that morning), as I was before I got married. Even as crazed as I was before my first book talk event.
Heart pounding. Couldn't swallow. Breakfast rumbling in the innards. Unable to sit still. Couldn't get anything done. A total wreck!
Someone somewhere said these words to my big brother (a boy and man who took the sport very seriously): "It's only a game."
On our Way
My husband couldn't go to the first game against the D-backs, but my son Rick was wonderfully free to join me. He seemed much calmer than I, luckily, and managed to make a few observations as I drove to the stadium. For example:
"Look out for that car changing lanes."
"Slow down, here's the exit."
"Whoa, whoa, Mom, don't hit the parking attendant!"
Pretty handy to have him around when I'm in full nerve mode.
When we got to our seats and the game began, optimism and fear battled within me. The crowd stayed put. None of that up and down to the bar or the restaurant. We were glued. And wired. (Interesting image, glued and wired.)
That day our team was RED HOT!!! VICTORY WAS OURS!
Only a game? It's a way of life!
Game 2 vs. D-backs
Sunday game in Miller Park. Setting: Gorgeous, sunny fall day; parking lot crowded with the usual tailgate parties and beanbag games. The folks next to our car had a grill that could have charred a feast for forty.
Inside the closed stadium, the atmosphere felt even more intense than in the first game. No way were the Brewers going to lose even once in our ballpark! Some green and gold shirts and hats dotted the stands, reminding us the Packers game overlapped ours. The guy at the end of our row had his tiny TV hooked up to a battery so he could watch the Packers slaughter whoever the heck they slaughtered. (No way I could have focused on that game too!)
The crowd thundered their joy with each Brewers hit, walk, run, or seemingly effortless play. In the first inning, Ryan Braun was his usual, reliable, awesome self, homering with Corey Hart on base. Jerry Hairston was solid in the infield. After the Snakes tied the game, the Brewers broke out, adding five runs. It was grand to have two games down and just ONE MORE VICTORY TO GO in the first round. JUST ONE.
Then the Crew flew down to Arizona, to that vast stadium, filled (or nearly filled) with fans who rudely booed the visiting team during their introduction. That wasn't the only indignity the team suffered. For a few innings it looked as if pitcher Shaun Marcum was aiming at the D-backs' bats. My nervousness crystallized into panic, then melted into depression. I slumped off to bed and buried my face in a pillow, harboring a faint hope the Brewers could make a comeback.
The next game renewed my hope, at least for a few innings. But again I fled beneath the covers before the final out.
It turns out baseball isn't only a game. It's also a form of torture.
2-2 With One to Go: Friday's Game
You'd think I might have figured out how to remain philosophic about the final game against the D-backs, the do-or-die game. At least my son-in-law, who went with me to the game, didn't have to tell me not to hit other cars on the highway or in the parking lot, but my heart was definitely over producing.
Right from the get go, things weren't smooth. Yovani Gallardo, Mr. Steady, was not in the groove. His pitch count rose quickly. No way would he get to the ninth. I nervously gobbled the apple I'd brought from home. The D-backs scored first with a home run in our park -- an indignity.
A Fluke Inning
Thanks to an odd combination -- Nyjer Morgan's double, a wild pitch, a walk, a hit batter and a sac fly -- the Brewers tied the game. Not quite enough to calm my jitters.
The bottom of the sixth began the way I like it. Braun doubled and Prince Fielder walked. We were in business. Then Rickie Weeks and Hairston flied out and I thought I'd have to leave right then. My guys weren't up to it. I dug out a tiny candy bar from my bag and made it vanish. Before I grabbed another one, Yuniesky Betancourt, bless him, singled, scoring Braun, who ran like a tornado.
And that's the way it stood right up to the ninth. The Ax Man was going to do the job. We could count on his cool, machine-like delivery. But he did the unthinkable. He allowed a run to tie the game.
The rest of the game is a blur, mainly because I kept my eyes closed quite a bit of the time. I know I devoured another apple. I remember asking the couple who sits in front of me and attends even more games than I do if they were having fun. They both turned to me and said, "NO!"
We didn't score in the bottom of the ninth, so when the D-backs didn't score in the top of the tenth, I decided I should put on my Brewers zip-front sweatshirt, the one I'd worn to so many winning games. (I'm not taking full credit here, but it is possible that lucky shirts might just be lucky.)
Through trembling fingers I spied that marvelous finale. Suddenly there was a glorious moment when I wasn't breathing, I wasn't seeing everything, as complete chaos erupted on the field. I was only feeling joyful. Sparkling confetti fluttered from somewhere in the roof. Strangers hugged each other. I cried into my victory towel.
The Brewers, those fabled players, did it!!! Next glory moment: The Pennant.
Of course baseball isn't just a game: It's a way of life!
Anne Stratton is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.