Wednesday, September 30, 2015
The trees die so they can grow again
One of my least favorite sports tropes is the “long-suffering fan.” Leaving aside the credulity-bending notion that the hours spent watching sports on TV constituted “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship,” nobody that watched any of the 300-odd starts Roy Halladay made in these colours or the 330 home runs Carlos Delgado clouted in this town can truly say they suffered at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s more an extension of the dreaded marketing buzzword “FOMO” - the fear of missing out. In Toronto, we’ve missed out. For more than 20 years, we missed out on Dave Roberts’ steals and Adam Wainwright freezing Carlos Beltran in place and Madison Bumgarner transcending the astral plane. Those unforgettable moments all happened, just not to us. It’s always better having a little skin in the game.
Missing out on the unforgettable makes acting like a baseball-obsessed prospector, hunting for interesting or promising elements among teams that were sometimes good but never great, seem extra trivial. It’s a terrible return on the investment of time, hope, and emotional energy.
Beyond missing out, clinging to baseball ephemera is a solitary pursuit. We’re the die-hards, spending hours parsing stat lines and wish-casting on transactions never to materialize. A hobby within a hobby that is its own kind of fun. But there’s a difference between watching an individually brilliant performer and watching a World Series-calibre team.
It’s the difference between “me” and “us.” And it makes all the difference in the world. The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are a baseball supernova. One day they were just another team and then, after four days at the end of July, nothing was ever the same. We’re not missing out any more, it's right before our eyes.
This team transformed from .500 also-ran into a phenomenon quite literally overnight. The people reading this, with our boots on the ground every year from March to September, now finding the Jays dominate conversations with colleagues and relatives, in elevators and lunch lines. It’s very...new.
The stadium is now full - too full to permit a breezy stroll to the ticket window on a whim. That loss of convenience is replaced by an unmistakable electricity that courses through the building, through the city, and damn near throughout an entire country. It’s replaced with the unmistakeable feeling of being part of something bigger, something that will echo beyond this day, this month, or this year.
It’s a no-brainer, as easy a trade-off to make as it was for Alex Anthopoulos to greenlight shipping out interesting pitching arms in exchange for the firepower -- and megawatt star power -- to make this all possible.
It feels like this team is more than just a successful baseball squad. They are “everything baseball is ain’t.” It is an unbelievable confluence of personalities and backstories. It is narratively more than the sum of its considerable parts.
There is the human charisma machine, successfully emerging from a North Carolinian Lazarus Pit as an unhittable monster. A man with 150 innings pitched as a pro who makes anything seem possible, armed with the work ethic of a sociopath and the metabolism of an X Man - although the HDMH-sized chip in his shoulder stubbornly refuses to heal.
That healing power appears to have been re-directed to his fingers, where he orchestrates a two-seam fastball that appears to move independent of both time and space. From lost for the year to de facto number two starter, Marcus Stroman is the 2015 Blue Jays in frenetic human form.
There’s of course the Liquid Hot Sexual Gold™ - the MVP-in-waiting who somehow managed to better than anyone had any right to expect - and also so, so much more. There is not much left to say about Josh Donaldson because he has done everything.
David Price. Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion. Troy Tulowitzki (!). Russell Russell Russell Martin. Some of baseball’s leading lights, all on the same team. Oh by the way, it is also the best team in the American League, (very soon to be) champions of the East division.
The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are poised to give more than the previous 22 iterations took away. The palpable joy exchanged between the team and those following them is only upping the stakes, upping the investment and bringing the city to greater levels of euphoria.
All before the first bunting is hung. Before the first O Canada the broadcast won’t cut away from in 22 years. Before the roof blows off in October. We’ve waited along time for this. The wait is over.
Man, fuck 'em all, man, we want it all
Don't get too involved, we gon' knock you off
And to top it all I'm with all the dogs
It's a new season and we still breathin'