August 26, 2008

The Old Ball Game

When it comes to bone-crunching existential agony, nothing beats being a Chicago Cubs fan. Someday, though, maybe we Nationals fans will feel the same way:
As Nats fans are now discovering, baseball pain is different than football pain, as of course baseball is different than football. Yes, I remember Mel Gray's phantom catch in the St. Louis end zone 30-odd years ago and how the ache of that lasted -- why, it must have lasted at least until the following Sunday! Because football is so spectacular and overwrought and explosive and so weekly, you get a few days of recovery and then you're suckered into the buildup for next Sunday. Baseball just goes on and on and on and on, grinding you to nothingness.
The key, however, isn't simply that your baseball team is bad; it's that it arrives at the cusp of winning, and then blows it. This is what gives the Cubs, and until 2004 the Red Sox, their poignancy. The Nats have to pick themselves up off the doormat of the National League, get close to winning their division or the NL pennant or even the World Series, and then crumple and burn like a paper lantern. And they have to do it again. And again. And again. Then we fans will be hurtin'.

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