This is part 1 of the Orioles Observer Road Trip Report to Arlington, Texas for the 2012 American League Wild Card Game.
Thursday, October 4, 2012 − 3:20 am
I went to sleep immediately after the Orioles 4–1 loss to the Rays that closed out the regular season.
Well, I tried to go to sleep. I slept for a few restless hours and then woke up at 2 am with a million questions on my mind.
- Why couldn’t the Rays just roll over after they were eliminated on Monday?
- Why did Texas decide to roll over and lose the division to the A’s, making the Wild Card game an even more daunting prospect than going back out to the monstrosity known as the Oakland Colosseum? (1)
- Why couldn’t Boston muster any effort against the Yankees?
- Why couldn’t we just win this and guarantee the Wild Card at home? At least if the O’s lost at home, it was one more time to get to Camden Yards and would allow the fans to demonstrate how much this team meant to them.
But the most problematic question racing through my thoughts were, “What if this one game wild card is it? What if the O’s, who defied the odds all year, the ONE team that wasn’t able to celebrate its playoff clinching properly, loses the first one game wild card in MLB history? Not only will everyone just laugh the O’s off as having their luck ended but this magical, amazing season will close without an ending that the team deserves.”
That’s right, deserves. Because this team earned the respect that they never received from the national baseball media. They earned a much better fate than going down to Texas to play against the powerhouse Rangers. My own anxiety, which I had been able to keep out of the baseball season for all of 2012, woke itself up and began driving me nuts.
I got out of my bed at 3 am and decided I needed to write a blog post to get some of the thoughts out of my head. That post accurately described what I could put to paper at 3:20 in the morning. I finally fell asleep again at around 5 but it was hardly a good sleep.
Thursday, October 4, 2012 − 8:15 am
I woke up a little before 8 am after hearing Paul leave for work. When you don’t have to get up for work, it can be a blessing at times, but it can also weigh heavily on you, especially when things aren’t going great. I know it sounds ridiculous to talk about how a loss in Game 162 could make me feel like crap, but it did.
I tried to think about where we were going to watch the game on Friday Night. Paul had already said that we wouldn’t be watching it at home because Wednesday’s regular season finale was too nerve wracking. The winner-takes-all wild card game couldn’t be watched in the confines of our apartment.
A couple of idea’s ran through my mind. We could always watch it at a bar in downtown Baltimore, but that’s not me. We could watch it at our parents house in Gaithersburg, where we were 2–1 watching O’s games this year. Maybe invite over some of our Oriole friends who were local and have a mini-party/celebration. That idea stuck out to me as the way to go. I needed to celebrate this season, this team.
I texted Paul the idea and he writes back, “Please elaborate. Call or email me in ten minutes. I’ll be in the office by then” I’m looking at my iPad thinking, “Elaborate? Does he want me to write him a memo?” I tell him that we can order in wings, invite some people over, have some sort of party.
Our text exchange continued:
Paul: Let me think about it for an hour. [8:33 am]
Tim: There’s no pressure. I’m good with whatever you want to do. I also put a new blog up. [8:40 am]
Paul: Part of me wants to go to Arlington…but that’s prob just crazy talk. [8:45 am]
Tim: I’m in. [8:49 am]
3 phone calls between us and 45 minutes later, we had our flight booked and Wild Card tickets purchased for Friday.
We never do anything like this. Paul and I are pretty straightforward in our everyday lives. We know when to take appropriate risks, but spur of the moment, high risk, high cost chances are far from the norm for us. But this wasn’t a normal situation and sometimes it’s this type of situation that calls for something out of the ordinary.
Being completely honest, I was in from the second I read Paul’s text about going to Arlington. What did I have to lose? I wasn’t working and this would certainly make the hours on Friday before the game go a lot faster. But Paul is someone who is very calculated. He measures everything, finding the balance that suits his wants and needs. It’s made him successful professionally and financially.
I figured that if he had thought seriously about this and came to that decision, then it was a no brainer. I was surprised when we talked later that evening that it really wasn’t a calculated move. It was, “This is the first playoff game in 15 years and we need to be there.”
It was a risky proposition. As in life, there was absolutely no guarantee that the Orioles were going to win the game, especially if you listened to the pundits and experts. Anyone can win one game. Any team can win a best of 3, 5, or 7 game series.
Looking at it from a calculated perspective, this was the ultimate high risk, high reward opportunity for us as Orioles fans. A win and we are part of history. A loss and the trip back to Baltimore would be tough. Tough might have been an understatement.
On the other hand, we have always based our love of the Orioles and baseball not on the final outcome, but on the experiences that come with living and breathing something from February to October on a daily basis. If we based all of our Orioles decisions and fandom solely on wins and losses, we wouldn’t be fans of the team in 2012 because not winning would have sucked any enjoyment from the game.
But that’s not how we operate.
Winning makes things a little more enjoyable at the end of the day but it can’t be the primary reason for being a fan of something sports related. If it is, you are no better than the Yankees/Duke/Manchester United type of fans, those who will only root for winners.
Mark Cuban said it best at his blog after the Mavs won the NBA Championship in 2011: “Professional sports is an incredibly humbling business. No team wins every year. Many teams have never won. Far more often than not there is the game/series that got away from you that ended the season with a loss.”
I have spent many days and nights at Camden Yards, enjoying the subtleties of the game, taking in the nice weather, and using it as a break from real life, which is often hectic, grating, and challenging. If my enjoyment was strictly based on a result-oriented outcome, I would be doing a disservice to my own enjoyment of the game and escape from real life. I would have been one of the many fans who abandoned the team many years ago during the hard times only to finally come back in September when the playoffs finally looked within reach. But that’s a rant for another blog post.
At some point on Thursday, probably after calling my Mom and Dad to let them know what we were doing, I realized that this trip was important to do, not for the outcome of the game, but for the experience it would offer.
(1) I say this with all the respect in the world as the A’s deserve to have a new, state of the art stadium in Oakland and not in San Jose. But the current facility is a mess.