I’m in the middle of doing packets and I have a mound of email to answer, a sick child at home, and out of town husband, and an overarching preschool crisis to deal with (you would not think such things were possible, but, alas, they are.) But, since this is a writing blog, I want to take a moment to talk about baseball.
The Minnesota Twins won a one-game playoff for the division championship last night. The game’s very existence was improbable—the Twins were seven games back a couple of weeks ago, and three games back with four left to play. No one in the history of baseball has done what they did.
Baseball is a narrative. Like good fiction, it lays out its story carefully, slowly, so that at the end of the game you can look back and see that that ending was inevitable all along. A good baseball game has structure and symmetry and poetry. Your job as a fan is to watch the game unfold and try to figure out where it’s taking you.
Last night’s game seemed like it might be a simple story. An opposing player who had just suffered from embarrassing personal revelations hit a big home run early in the game. Suddenly, that guy was going to be the hero, the Twins were never going to be in the game at all, they were going to lose, the dramatic comeback would be for naught. Maybe next year. Then—boom—a midseason pickup for the Twins hit a homerun to give us the lead, and suddenly the comeback was complete, the overarching story of the season writ small, the new teammate earning his stripes along the way.
But this was a story with twists and turns. Every inning a new seemingly-inevitable narrative presented itself. The Twins shut down the Tigers in exhilarating fashion at the top of the ninth—obviously that would carry them to the win the next inning. And then they blew that chance thanks in part to a great defensive play by the Tigers’ shortstop—who then got up in the next inning and hit in the go-ahead run. Ah, yes, this story—the guy who makes the great defensive play in the last inning gets the key hit to win the game.
But it still wasn’t over. We tied the game and would have won—but a bench player who’s never quite lived up to his potential made an elementary baserunning mistake, one woefully in character for him. In the end, it seemed we would lose because the bullpen would fail us—the Twins Achilles’ heel bringing us to our fateful end. But that wasn’t it either. It was that woeful bench player who strode up with two on in the bottom of the twelfth inning, and then this happened:
This story was sprawling and messy, but also absolutely perfect. The ending was earned by all the details scattered over the previous twelve innings. Narrative done well is beautiful. Especially when your team wins.
Anne, you interpreted the game wonderfully! Maybe that's what I love so much about baseball — it's like a damn good book, the kind you want to experience again and again. Thanks for sharing, Anne. And, as this blog entry is labeled under "Digressions," I will digress: GO TWINS!
Ohhhh! So that's what my husband meant by, "Looks like it was a good game to watch." 😉 You liken baseball to good fiction. To point out the obvious, it is in fact excellent nonfiction. Sports writing (as in your blog entry) builds poetic, meaningful, symmetrical narrative from actual events, the facts of which can't be changed. Sports writing offers great examples of how drama and symbolic meaning are embedded in real-life stories.
Beautiful indeed. I love a story with an unlikely hero, but a whole game full of them? Unreal.
(Another digression… baseball is also poetry? In our office the day, two of our resident poets admitted to spontaneous, game-induced poem writing. Lovely.)