What happens in winter
It’s the seasonal equivalent of Sunday dread, that moment as the last of the weekend turns into the first of the work week (or, years ago, fresh seven days of school) when you begin to feel your entire life weigh heavily upon you. Somewhere recently I read that Sunday dread is the bit of evening where you are nearly smothered by the choices you’ve made, and the doubts you have about them – should I have gone to grad school when I was young? Is it too late to become President? Why didn’t I try harder in fifth grade? Will we ever be the people living in the same neighborhood as Tom Izzo?
It’s when September is just about out of days and the Tigers, God bless them, are officially, mathematically, scientific-method tested and retested and confirmed, out of the playoff picture. Again.
But it’s more than the end of the season. It’s the constant reminder of Opening Day, the (irrational) amount of hope and optimism gurgling north during Spring Training in the dispatches from the beat reporters in Lakeland. It’s the same as catching a whiff of summer even as the maple leaves are scratching across your shoelaces.
Austin Jackson comes to the plate, and it’s impossible to forget his first games, his first hits. Watching the Tigers dismantle the Twins this past weekend (ten runs? Where did that come from?) of course stirs up the same emotions roiling us off the couch and high-fiving in front of the television, exclaiming to no one when the boys would come back in the bottom of the ninth and you were listening to the game on the radio, covered in garden soil, spade raised triumphantly.
And yet it’s all tinged a little sepia, something like watching a film knowing the end will be tragic. The Tigers will take the series from the Twins, it will be impressive, it will be so much like June and those hot nights when Miguel Cabrera just seemed to will the team to win, when even Eddie Bonine had nasty pitches working and the bullpen was not what opposing hitters wanted to face.
It’s the Sunday dread, the nostalgia and the promise all still present – the taste of watermelon on the breeze when you’re buttoning your coat – and all somehow failed. The fabulous home record, the road trip disasters. The injuries, the sense of having wasted something – something perfect like 26 outs, something perfect like a Rookie of the Year season paired with an MVP.
We know what’s coming. The cold, the long tucking in until the snow drains away, the months of rumors and innuendo and tough decisions we can spend this moment, next year, second guessing.
Still, it’s not quite time. The Tigers might be getting ready to hibernate, but baseball isn’t finished. There’s an entire month left of hot tea on the couch, windows open, blankets swathing feet. Maybe it’ll be harder to burst from that cocoon while watching the playoffs, but if it’ll stave off the Sunday dread-esque feeling of knowing it’s almost time to tuck the cleats away, you better believe I’m ready to bring out my Phillies hat.