The Power of Three and the Pennant Race

Three… this irksome little number.

As of this morning that’s the Giants’ magic number with four games left. All I can do is stare blankly at the standings, projecting different results and pondering pitching matchups until my eyes hurt.

Writers always use little kids as the barometer for the emotional highs and lows of sports, especially baseball. They cry when the team loses a big game. They get absurdly ecstatic after a single win. But in the end they are subject to the moment and that is why they are not a barometer for anything.

As an adult, experience forces me to take the long view. I’m stuck understanding how every single moment could toss me and everyone else following the Giants into a chasm of disappointment. Those standings are always in the back of my head, brain churning though permutations of wins and loses. Whenever they go down early (like they did Wednesday and Tuesday), the mind inevitably hones in on the worst case scenario.

“If the Padres win what’s next? How well do they need to do in the final series? Why can’t the best pitcher on the team just go out and PUT OUR MINDS AT EASE?”

And that’s just after two innings when Lincecum labored and the Giant bats looked cold.

This is real pennant race baseball; getting mad at every turn, fretting over bloop hits or long fly outs and sweating the small things.

And when the game ends and the Giants win, there’s so little emotional payoff. Each night the only thing coming is the relief of an opponent kept at bay, and the fear that it will all come apart tomorrow.

I don’t recall feeling this way back in the early 2000s when the A’s and Giants were actually relevant in late September. Maybe I was too young to know better. Maybe years of watching sports have jaded me or made me a realist, two near-identical terms that only differ in one’s perspective.

For now, however, that magic number of three still looms large, a big feat for such a small numeral.

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1 Response to The Power of Three and the Pennant Race

  1. Kyle Sparks says:

    That’s a pretty interesting dichotomy on how fans view sport. Loosely–ephemeral jubilation or long-term skepticism. I think it sort of explains what’s going on with the lack of Rays fans. Two possibilities:
    1. Florida baseball fans were pre-conditioned by the Marlins’ cyclical approach to small-budget baseball, so they’re predisposed to view any success as fleeting and fated to deflate quickly.
    2. The Rays were never good enough to earn a fanbase, and their potential fans are too pragmatic to get excited when David catches Goliath with a quick jab. That is, most of the players they’d get excited about will sign phat contracts with the Yanks or BoSox when their contracts are up.
    Of course, some fans don’t have such a hard time holding on to ephemeral victories for a while. I call them Cubs fans.

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