Clinch

I am an optimist, but this is not an obvious truth. Think of a world with inhabitants that always jump to happy conclusions:  “This is our hour. Nothing can go wrong now.” In that world, I would look paranoid. “No, you blind Pollyannas! You don’t know that, not totally.”

In that world, I would talk about clinching divisions. “Now,” I’d say, “now it’s truly known. Now you can focus on playoff affairs, at last. But you shouldn’t do so until now.”

But in our world, pragmatism (or cynicism?) is common. All of us work on assumptions–nobody has a proof with axioms and such that tomorrow’s sun will show up, but I plan my day as if it will just as anybody would. Still, I look optimistic if only by comparison with normal folks, holding on to a tiny probability until it too blinks out.

A victory that locks down a divisional championship counts just as much as a quick win in July that looks insignificant. Your rival’s dooming loss counts just as much for it as a marathon back in spring, with all its glib “I’m saving arms, as this isn’t too important now” quotations. But to clinch isn’t nothing: it says that all of that was worth it.

Elimination

That’s that, that’s all,
The end’s here,
This is it–nil
Odds to go on.
Turn: pucks, punts, jumps–

All that starts
When September ends.
I grip, I cling
To forlorn long shots.
But Cubs flub,

Nats crash,
Brewers err,
Twins limp,
O’s go down.
Chumps suck.

Cubs 4, Pittsburgh 2

Think, if you will, of the most mediocre roster to ever compete…in the NFL.

Every winter, they’d finish up with eight wins. Eight losses, too. Sometimes, it might be good enough to let them go on beyond Week 16, but they just wouldn’t win in further competition. Possibly one winter might see nine wins…but the next would bring seven. The epitome of .500 clubs, in other words.

Now think of how it would feel to root for them. Only twice per month, once if you got lucky, would you see them lose. Two evenings glowering in front of the TV. It wouldn’t be so horrible, would it?

When July wound down, you’d get excited. September would bring victory, October see struggles, November success, December…less success. Soon enough, it would begin once more. With eight wins every time, you would need ten winters before you could see your heroes win eighty times.

Eighty wins? Some MLB side could get eighty wins in one summer (plus spring, plus September, etc.) while finishing below .500.

Pittsburgh just set the record for most consecutive such summers. They never hit eighty wins during this time, true, but if they did, it still wouldn’t be enough. Victory is microcosmic for this sport, with close to twice the opportunity for it next to hockey or hoops. But loss, too, is persistent. So we telescope our emotion.

Their pitcher’s behind in the count! Yes, but there’s nobody on.
But there’s nobody out! Yes, but we’re down by one.
But we just swept! But we’re ten out of first.
But…he just singled! There!

It shouldn’t work. But it does, when we lose ourselves in the competition–winning by losing.

I think it works.

I don’t root for Pittsburgh.

I don’t know.

Of Callups and Clich…Hmm.

Can I put a taboo symbol in a post if it has a typographical mark on top of it? I don’t know.

This month brings young folks up and old sayings out of 11-month obscurity. Is this a finish’s start? A point of no going back? What isn’t? You can’t go back to any past point, but can only wait until a similar opportunity rolls around.

For many squads, having young guys participating is an important part of things. It’s good to show upcoming stars how top divisions work. It’s all with a catch–no playoff action for such callups–but so many fans know that playoff action isn’t a probability anyway. As of right now, Washington is a loss away from outright proof.

And assuming that loss occurs, or Colorado wins, it probably won’t flash across TVs or daily posts. Not for long, anyway. A Washington fan must pull off a difficult balancing act–support and optimism in half of a mind, looking at wild card standings with a distinct half. Only this month will it turn official, but so many of us know for so much of a campaign how it will most probably turn out. And not in a good way. All you can do is downplay signposts and try to find joy in simply watching.

Or not. Upcoming playoffs could drag on into an unusual month for this sport. I don’t mind long playoffs, and I don’t want to say “No, only that past championship (2001’s) should go that long, don’t kick it out of history” as a broadcasting guy did a day or two ago. Still, a basic rhythm is around–from March’s training to April’s officiality, July’s days off to August’s brutality to fall’s climax–and I don’t want to disturb it too much.