Friday, October 5, 2012 – 11:00 pm (CST)
By the time I realized McClouth would have no trouble securing the routine fly ball for the final out, I busted down the isle to the back of the Orioles dugout, joining other Orioles fans who were jumping up and down and clapping, with elated looks on everyone’s faces. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing, to the point that it didn’t feel real for a while.
After the on-field celebration began to break up, each Oriole leaving the field for the clubhouse received a rousing ovation. For the next 20 minutes, which seemed like 20 seconds in real time, about 200 or so Orioles fans stood around and remarked at how unbelievable the scene we just witnessed was. It was a pretty surreal moment as a fan, especially after not getting to celebrate with the team on September 30 against the Red Sox and having everything put on the line in a one game, winner moves on, loser goes home game. Everyone Paul and I talked to had a look of pure elation of their faces. It’s not often that you travel 1300 plus miles on one days notice, rack up a decent amount of money doing so, and are rewarded with a moment in time that you will never forgot. You would never know there were just about 300 Orioles fans spread throughout the stadium that night, especially after the game, when 300 sounded like 30,000. (1)
I looked at my phone and saw numerous texts from people who back at home, most of them congratulatory. On a normal day, being congratulated for being a fan would seem insane to me and it did a little bit on this night, but the adreneline of the Orioles proving everyone wrong just made me respond with a “thanks” to most of those people.
With the stadium finally cleared out of almost everyone except O’s fans and a few Texas stragglers, Paul and I knew we had to kill some time before heading to the airport. A group of O’s fans said they were heading to Humperdinks for a post game celebration and we tagged along with them. Their story was similiar to ours: a last minute decision on Thursday to take a risk to see what would happen. My favorite story was from one guy who said he wasn’t able to get in touch with his boss so he didn’t even know if he would have a job waiting for him on Monday. The unanimous response to him was, “Who cares? It was definitely worth it.”
Humperdinks wasn’t exactly located in a pedestrian friendly part of Arlington, so the grass on the side of the road next to Six Flags was the sidewalk for the mile and a half walk. We walked by the main Rangers parking lot and to their credit, most of the fans ignored us or said that they hope the Orioles beat the Yankees, but like in any group, we had a few cars who just didn’t cope with the loss too well.
When I heard the name Humperdinks, I thought of a dingy, cowboy hat wearing, saloon type bar. It was pretty much the opposite of that, a big establishment that sat the 20 or so people in our group in the back to grab some drinks and food. Like the congratulatory text message, what happened next was a very “once-in-a-lifetime” moment as one of the guys in the group disapears for a few minutes and then comes flying back into the room. He announces to the table that we are doing a champaigne celebration outside in 5 minutes. Paul and I look at each other, wondering if this guy is for real or just crazy. Five minutes goes by and we all head outside and low and behold, the guy has not one, but two bottles of campaigne and we had a mini locker room celebration on the patio of Humperdinks in Arlington. At one point in time, there was a little bit of footage from this impromtu event on You Tube, but I can’t find it at the time of this writing.
After grabbing a little bit to eat, Paul and I got a cab over to the airport, where we would be catching a 6:30 am flight. We arrived at about 1:50 to a completely empty airport, still riding high and unable to wind down after a crazy and amazing 18 hours. I had my iPad and we watched as many highlights as we could find and refreshed twitter constantly before finally hitting a wall around 3 am.
Hitting the wall didn’t mean sleep, at least not yet. It’s hard to get comfortable on the airport floor, none the less when you are dehydrated and goofy tired. But killing four hours until the flight was easy after the win. I asked Paul how this would have worked if we hadn’t won. His answer: who cares?
The 6:30 am flight took us to Philadelphia for a 2 hour lay over, but some sleep during the first part of the flight, combined with the pre-order for ALCS tickets at 11 am EST meant we were pretty much awake until we got home.
Our sports fandom mojo was in full force as the then top 10 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers defeated the Texas Longhorns 48-45 in front of a national TV audience on Fox. Not a good weekend to be a Texas sports fan.
(1) Watching the replay of the game, specifically the Jim Hunter interview with Jim Johnson after the final out, you can really hear how loud such a small group of people can be.