Snatching Agony from the Glove of Victory
I write to you as a broken blogger. Tonight’s game was absolutely gut-wrenching. If you found it painful on TV, think about me, one of the few Cardinals fans, so lonely in the Dodger Stadium bleachers.
I was thrilled that the Cardinals would face the Dodgers in the NLDS – I’d get to see them! And, boy, was it easy to get tickets. I went on Ticketmaster and easily scored tix for Game 2 and Game 5. Obviously, that would not be the case with tickets in St. Louis. There are definitely passionate Dodger fans in LA, but I often feel the city overall is busy taking advantage of the great weather and playing their own personal sports such as surfing or tennis to really follow the pro teams.
I had a work event last night that prevented me from attending Game 1, but I watched the second half of it on TV, disappointed that Carpenter didn’t have his good stuff. So I was nervous going into today’s game, yet confident because we’d have Wainwright on the mound.
My boyfriend Dave took off work early to go to the game with me. Since we were sitting in the bleachers, I figured it’d be good to have his 6’3″ self for protection. He even donned a Cardinal cap for the occasion, although he is a Yankee fan (something I try to overlook about him :). We were in the All You Can Eat pavilion which is a pretty good deal. You get unlimited Dodger Dogs, popcorn, nachos, peanuts, and soda with the price of admission.
We arrived as the first inning was getting underway. It was clear Wainwright was on his game, as the Dodgers couldn’t get a hit. In the 2nd inning, Matt Holliday hit a solo homer to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Our hero!
Wainwright pretty much had the Dodgers’ number. We had a good view of his pitches as we were almost centered in the bleachers, and it was inspiring to watch. He threw 70% strikes. I couldnt see the scoreboard behind us, so I made the mistake of uttering out loud: “I don’t think the Dodgers have a hit yet.” Sure enough, Andre Ethier smacked one out in that same 4th inning.
I was a nervous wreck. The Cards kept stranding base runners, and I know that always comes back to haunt you. There were only a few Cards fans in my section, including one particularly obnoxious but amusing guy in front of me. He brought out new accessories for each inning. I asked him if he had the whole clubhouse store in his bag. He waved boxer shorts like they were a flag, and got yelled at (deservedly) for wearing a Cat in the Hat hat that blocked peoples’ view, including Dave’s (but Dave didn’t ask him to take it off for fear of jinxing us). Dodger fans were hating on this guy. Yes, there was obnoxiousness on both sides. At one point, security even came over to ask if we were all being treated okay.
The Cardinals added a run in the 7th, but my stomach was still in knots. Wainwright had a rocky bottom of the 8th, loading the bases before finally getting out of the jam. I was glad to see Tony pull him out for the ninth.
Everyone was standing. Emotions were running high. It seemed like Ryan Franklin had things well in hand, as the Cardinals had two outs. Then a routine-ish fly ball was hit to left field. Matt Holliday lost it in the lights, bobbled it, dropped it. We could taste the win, and it was yanked away. I knew the momentum had shifted there, and 50,000 screaming Dodger fans in my ear only reinforced it. You don’t really get a second chance when you mess up that big. Franklin couldn’t quite regain composure and the Dodgers tied the game and then got the go-ahead run.
“Let’s get out of here,” I told Dave. I couldnt stand to be around the celebrating fans who were jeering us. I didn’t even say goodbye to the Cardinal Superfan in front of us. I felt tears welling up in my eyes and knots in my stomach. And the stomach pain wasn’t from the 3 dodger dogs and nachos I’d consumed. I can’t remember ever being so emotional over a sports event before, but it was something about being there in person, tasting the win, and then having it ripped away. It was just gutting.
The walk back to the car wasn’t fun. Dodger fans taunted us. One fan screamed at us to get out of their house and go back to St. Louis. Another fan yelled out that we looked like we’d had too many Dodger Dogs. Great – it’s not bad enough to lose a heartbreaker, now I have to get called fat too? Stay classy, LA.
It’s been a long time since I lived in St. Louis, so I’m used to supporting my team at other stadiums. I wear my colors and cheer quietly. I don’t brag or gloat when we win. I try to be respectful. I can’t say the same for a lot of the Dodger fans tonight. Now I know many fine and upstanding Dodger fans…unfortunately, I didn’t happen to run into any of them in the bleachers or the parking lot today.
I feel terrible for Matt Holliday. Imagine going from being the hero to the goat in the course of a game. We can’t make him into a Bartman or a Buckner. I don’t think the Cardinals would even be in the NLDS had they not acquired Holliday. He’s been such an offensive boost and usually – usually – reliable on defense. This was just the absolute worst time to make an error. And I keep replaying it in my head. And it hurts. Physically.
Fandom is like love. Sometimes it’s euphoric. Sometimes it bites. Here’s hoping the Cardinals can dig deep, take it one day at a time as the baseball cliche says, and just get a win on Saturday.