On Monday nights in the summer M and I play in a co-ed softball league. Our team isn’t particularly good, but it is almost always fun getting out there with some friends and playing softball outside on a nice Minnesota summer day. This past Monday M asked me if I wanted to play catch before our 9:20pm game. I said yes and threw her the ball. I then turned around and threw my keys to the ground, so that I could have both hands free. Just as I was turning around I heard M yell “*Kevin!” right before the softball flew right into the right side of my head. I never though M was particularly accurate or that she threw very fast, but on this one throw she was both accurate and from the pain I can only imagine that she threw like Joel Zumaya. All of this pain and embarrassment happened because I never saw the ball coming.
*Feel free to do the Home Alone impression. It is great that people still find that scene so funny after almost 20 years.
Sometimes the games I don’t see stick with me more than the games I see. For example I can’t remember many of the particulars of past Duke losses, (like the Villanova game from this year) but I can remember exactly where I was and how I felt when I found out that Duke lost to LSU in 2006. That doesn’t make much sense to me since I watched the entire Duke-Villanova game and still have yet to see any video (live or highlights) of the LSU-Duke game. I remember Tyrus Thomas and Glen Davis dominating the inside. I remember Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts playing like two overrated freshmen ballplayers who weren't and probably would never live up to *their considerable hype. I remember JJ Redick getting shut down by LSU’s perimeter defense. These are not fond memories, which is to be expected since no Duke loss is very appealing to me, but that isn’t the surprising part. The surprising part to me is that I remember this game that I didn’t see more clearly than most of the games I do see.
*Turned out to be true
If you are looking for examples most of the other examples are of painful losses. There was freshmen year in college when I went to Campus Crusade for Christ on a Thursday night in March because I liked a girl. First off I was disappointed to find out that one does not go to Campus Crusade for Christ to find a girl, but rather to find a wife. Second, after that failed effort I was even more disappointed when I returned from the event to find out that a loaded Duke team lost to a very flawed Indiana team consisting of Jared Jeffries and a bunch of shooters. There is also the example of this past Monday when I went to sleep with the Twins up 13-7 only to wake up to find out they lost 14-13 due in no small part to a bunch of bloop hits and a terrible out call on Michael Cuddyer at home plate to end the game. In fact the most memorable games so far from the Twins 2009 season are the terrible losses to the Yankees. Continuing on the theme I missed most of those games.
Just so that people don’t think I am too down I would like to bring up the one beautiful outlier in this string of unseen losses. This past September I went to go see the epic Padres-Nationals game because I wanted to see the new Nationals ballpark. The ballpark was fun and M enjoyed the pretzel, but that wasn’t the thing I remember most. The thing I remember most was all the calls and texts I started receiving letting me know that Ronnie Brown was leading the Dolphins to a blowout road victory over the New England Patriots. I remember getting what I thought were prank texts informing me that Ronnie Brown was running and even passing for multiple TDs. I try not to use this word to often, but in context of sports this was truly unbelievable. In fact I still don’t know if I believe what happened that day. I do know that I will not forget where I was or the fact that one of the few Dolphins games I miss just happened to be one of the most amazing regular season victories in the franchise’s history.
I don’t know if it is the fact that I missed seeing the losses above that really made them that memorable or if it is bad luck or even good luck. Is it better to sit there and slowly come to the realization that your team is going to lose? Or should it be like getting a shot from a doctor, where you just want the pain to come and go as quickly as possible? For some fans I know superstition plays a part and that they would blame themselves for their team losing. They would justify it by saying something like “If only I wouldn’t have watched Team X then they wouldn’t have lost to Team Y.” I try not to let superstition creep into my mind because really I know better than to think that I am the center of the world and that my actions help or hurt a team 1000 miles away. On my better days I am actually successful in my attempt to believe what I just wrote.
Regardless sometimes something comes up and you miss an exciting game (win or lose) that you wished you would have seen. These games in my mind can be more painful and more vivid than the games you do see. They really seem to leave a mark....kind of like the softball.