I was supposed to be at the beach, instead a last-minute decision was made to grab tickets to Sunday’s matinee match-up between the Angels and Yankees. So last minute, that I had just enough time to buy tickets, throw on my cap and head out to the Bronx.
The day weather-wise was abysmal. Hot and humid. People with ice packs on their heads, shirts soaked through with sweat, some new shirts on people around the 5th inning because they were wearing a heavy jersey or they couldn’t sit in their sweat any longer. The air sat on you like an x-ray vest. It just wasn’t comfortable and people had already started heading for the exits as the Yankees were down by 5 going into the bottom of the 9th.
As the bottom half of the ninth started, about a third of the stadium remained. I like to think it was all of us who didn’t participate in the wave as the game hung in the balance. Everyone starts to look around at each other nodding approval for staying. I automatically like everyone in the stadium because they really have every reason to leave. Hot, down by 5 and beer stopped being served awhile ago. But the one reason we all stayed is because we know that no deficit is insurmountable. (See: Yanks vs Red Sox from earlier this season.)
Home run, down 3. No outs.
Those who weren’t completely sold about a potential comeback before, now are. It was palpable. More chatter about pitching match-ups and a light drizzle starts to come down. You could picture one of them hitting a walk-off home run through a heavier rain. I said to my friend next to me, “How poetic,” with an equal share of sarcasm and hope. Granderson comes to the plate with the bases loaded, still down by 3, with two outs. He gets a hold of one, that from my angle, didn’t look gone, but looked like it had a chance to bury itself in the right field corner, just enough to clear the bases and tie the game. For a split second, the Stadium came unglued. Then it hooked foul.
I noticed that I started my nervous tick during games where I rock back and forth when the game is on the line. I noticed others in the bleachers doing their own thing. Rubbing their hands together, staring at their feet between pitches, pacing back in forth in their empty row, abandoned by fans who would miss a great story. I started to rationalize it. “This is a series we already won in middle of July. Why is my heart beating out of my chest? Calm down.” As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m completely irrational when 100% emotionally invested, so my brain loses again. I WANT this. For them, to be able to start a winning streak, for us, to have the story forever, and for the people that left, who will kick themselves forever that they wanted to beat the traffic.
Granderson walks. Run forced in. Down by 2.
As the remaining crowd is running around high-fiving anyone in sight, the rain stops and the sun starts to come out. I think to myself, “That’s not what’s supposed to happen. The rain was supposed to get heavier.” Again, completely irrational, but rational to me. The crowd is going completely nuts as A-Rod comes to the plate. But the cheering always comes to a dead stop when the pitcher goes into a windup in a crucial moment of a game. It’s impossible to cheer when you’re holding your breath. Each pitch gets heavier on you, the groan after each near miss gets louder as you get closer to the one pitch that will be the last, for better or worse.
A-Rod pops up. Game over. Yankees lose.
Crucifixion. As irrational as I am, the A-Rod hate is worse. A man wearing a t-shirt boasting how many championships the Yankees have won, starts saying the foulest things about A-Rod. Does he even realize how the number on his shirt would say “26″ if he wasn’t on that team? Probably not. He obviously doesn’t even remember his first inning 2-run home run that erased the 2-run deficit the Yankees had before they had even batted. Up and down River Ave, the good feelings and camaraderie was gone. Every small circle had someone on a soapbox, preaching like A-Rod is the devil reincarnate. That’s how quickly it turns. The Yankees fell just short and so did A-Rod, who honestly would have only bought himself enough grace with a walk-off, to carry over until his next plate appearance. I truly feel there is nothing he can do to be treated fairly by some of the fans. Being a major cog in the Yankees 2009 playoff run on their way to winning the World Series has gotten him nowhere. As the fictional, but poignant, Harvey Dent said, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”