I am not a Blue Jays fan. I am enjoying the fact that so many people are happy about the team. I am happy Toronto fans are getting some sporting joy in their lives. I know some fans in Canadian hockey markets can be insufferable (Vancouver included) so I tend to always hope for their hockey teams utter and abject failures at everything they do.
But Toronto hasn’t had many successes in the sporting world lately (It was 4-1!), and it’s baseball, so if any team has to win the World Series, why not be the Canadian team?
So when I watched game 5 between the Rangers and the Blue Jays, I wanted Toronto to win, but it wasn’t going to ruin my day if they didn’t. Then “sports” took over and that insane 7th inning happened.
Before I knew it, I was screaming at the ump. I was screaming at the TV. I was calling people up and explaining to them the travesty I just saw.
“NO, YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, THE UMP CALLED THE PLAY DEAD. THAT WAS GARBAGE. Mom, I don’t know why you’re not getting this.”
Not because I wanted the Jays to win mind you, but just because I hated the idea of a team losing on such a stupid play. I had become emotionally invested because of this. Now I wanted Toronto to win out of some weird sense of sports justice. It was like all of the times the Canucks had lost on some grievance flashed through my head at once, and now I wanted, nay, NEEDED Toronto to win, so I could regain some trust in sports. So I could go back to believing the Canucks one day might somehow avoid the cruel taunts from the Hockey Gods, and win the Cup.
You see, sports can be a cruel mistress at the best of times. You have an idea of how sports should work, about how your heroes will rise to conquer the evil forces, yet it rarely happens that way. For instance, in 1994, the Canucks team felt like they HAD to win. It was like destiny was on their side. You don’t come down 3-1 in the first round just to lose like that, damn it! Yet there was Mark Messier, dry humping the Stanley Cup, instead of Trevor Linden hosting the Cup and dedicating the win to a young me.
It didn’t make sense that the Canucks lost. It didn’t fit the Hollywood ending in my head. It doesn’t make sense when a big time player doesn’t come through in the clutch. But that is what makes sports so beautiful when everything does line up.
Imagine a world in which your team wins every year. Imagine you’re the Montreal Canadiens in the 70’s, and you’re trading a six pack of Molson for Guy Lafleur, and claiming owernship of anyone that kind of sounds like they have a french name. “Lester Smith? Les is French, we own you now.”
So you win Cup after Cup and establish a dynasty. Sure, it’s awesome to win, but there is something beautiful about the right mixture of losing and winning. The losing makes you appreciate the wins even more.
Which takes us back to the Blue Jays game. It’s the bottom of the seventh inning, and the Blue Jays have to find a way to get back into the game. Toronto looked to be on the brink of another “Toronto” moment.
Suddenly, the Texas Rangers begin dropping balls like Pete Rose had money on the game. Suddenly the game is tied, and Joey Bautista steps up to the plate with two men on.
Again, I am not a Blue Jays guy (Go Red Sox!), but I can admire a franchises marquee player. Yes, Donaldson was the hot fire this year, but Joey Bats has put his time in Toronto. He marked the start of a new belief of “maybe we can win this thing.” He had been there through the hard times, and now he was stepping up to be the hero. It was such an amazing sporting moment because you got to see what would happen in the biggest moment of one of the best Blue Jays of all time.
Part of me watched assuming he would hit a shallow pop fly. But there was a young part of me that watched and thought “No way, this guy is a hero, he’s going to do this.”
Then he swung. Then I screamed with glee.
He came through with one of the most iconic Blue Jays home runs of all time. Then he did the bat flip.
That right there was pure emotion. That was a man who had waited his whole life for this moment, coming through just like he always dreamed he would. Just like fans always dreamed he would. That was a man who saw a greasy loss coming his way, yet fought it off and turned things around. Hollywood ending indeed.
That is a perfect sporting moment. This is why I watch sports.
He isn’t pulling a cell phone out of his shoe and making a call while he walks the base path. He isn’t calling his team mates out to go through a 3 minute dance routine they perfected just in case this situation came up. He’s just living in the moment. Which is awesome.
Which is why I find it funny that people are actually getting mad about the bat toss. Some people are upset and felt it was too cocky. That is was “not showing respect” for the game. One guy even suggested Bautista threw the bat at the Rangers dugout.
To those people I say, enjoy it for what it was. Either enjoy the fact a guy came through in the clutch, or enjoy it for the fact that this guy made you so mad, you can’t wait to watch and see if he’ll lose. Don’t try and shoehorn it into some bigger issue, don’t try and bring “it’s about the ethics of baseball” into it.
Think about it this way, while you’re sitting there getting angry about Bautista throwing his bat, think about a little kid racing out onto the field today, asking his/her dad to toss them some pitches so they can “Hit it like Joey Bats.” Watch as kids around baseball parks crank a home run and do a high arcing bat toss, triumphantly proclaiming “BAUTISTA!” There are far better things in the world to get morally angry over than a sports celebration. (If you’re a Rangers fan, or are just sick of the Jays, by all means get super sports angry over it though, that is your right. Just don’t moralize it.)
It was an iconic moment, and we all got to witness it. Whatever side of the fandom you’re on, you just saw a big moment in baseball history.
Look, remember the 1994 Canucks? Remember this god damn guy I mentioned?
I hate that picture. Fucking hate it. It brings up terrible memories of the Rangers beating the Canucks. Of Messier running Linden over by the bench. Of the Canucks scattered on the ice, some of them openly weeping.
But I don’t bemoan Messier cackling with glee and pumping the Cup up and down. I have never once said “You know what Mark, you didn’t respect the game that night. You should have graciously accepted the Cup, then covered it in a towel, then led the crowd in a prayer.”
No, he won the god damn Cup. That was one of the highlights of your career. Enjoy the hell out of it.
You bald sack of garbage.
The point is, sports needs heroes and it needs villains. That’s what makes the game so interesting. So when you choose to get moral outrage over celebrations or in game acts or whatnot, just try and keep it contained in sports. Hate players all you want. I heartily encourage that. There is a lot of fun to be had booing a guy and actively cheering anytime they lose.
Just don’t try and talk about “respect for the game” or any of that other nonsense. This is sports. It’s just a game at the end of the day, so enjoy it for what it is.
It was a god damn bat flip, and it was awesome.