With 62 games and a little over two months left in the season, it may be a bit premature to already be worrying about the playoffs. But, what exactly is the point of being a fan if you are not worrying about the next playoff run with equal passion on October 15th, 2015 (the day that Daniel Murphy chose for the rest of time to be a pariah to Dodgers fans), on Opening Day 2016, and on July 25th, a random Monday in the middle of Summer.
For real, honest to goodness diehard fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 2016 playoffs have been at the forefront of our collective psyches since Howie Kendrick’s deplorable at-bat against Jeurys Familia last October.
We go through the motions and act like that’s not at all that we’ve been thinking about the whole season. We act like we’re taking it one game at a time and not getting too high or too low, no matter the outcome of any particular game. But, that’s simply just not true.
The Struggles of Supporting a Successful Team
If you’re like me, you have never seen the Dodgers make it to the World Series, let alone win one. For most of their existence, fans like myself, have only known the team to be good not great, and the playoffs is the light at the end of the tunnel. Making it to the playoffs is similar to making it to the promised land, despite not completing the ultimate goal since the 80’s.
That’s why we as fans go through the same emotional exercise every year, hoping to fulfill the promise of bringing the Commissioners Trophy back to the City of Angels. The promise of glory and being atop the baseball universe is enough to justify the optimism, despite that optimism not being rewarding for the better part of three decades.
There is no better encapsulation of this never ending sense of hope than the old Brooklyn slogan of “Wait Till’ Next Year!” Implode in game 6 of the NLCS against the Cardinals in 2013? Wait till’ next year. Live through the 7th inning horror-show in game 4 of the 2014 NLDS once again against the Cardinals? Wait till’ next year. Witness Daniel Murphy and the Amazin’s take the first step to breaking an equally long World Series drought in 2015? Wait till’ next year.
Well, here we are. We’re in the thick of “next year” and as we approach the end of July and the trade deadline, if I can be so bold, it would appear that the Dodgers are again in a reasonable position to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season. Excuse me for one brief moment as I go knock on every piece of wood that I can find in a five mile radius and pray to my baseball gods altar for good health for one Mr. Clayton Kershaw.
Ok, good, I’ve done everything in my power to ensure that I did not just jinx the team that I so love. But, as I was saying, it does not appear to be too much of stretch to think that despite the myriad of injuries sustained, reaching the postseason is well within the Dodgers grasp. Now, what I’m about to say is very, very annoying and slightly ridiculous, but, I am fully aware of this and I’ve come to peace with having this opinion.
It is beyond stressful to be a fan of a good baseball team, and the stress levels skyrocket the closer and closer we inch towards the playoffs.
Ok…everyone still with me? Good.
Because I really truly believe this statement and it is this time of year where every baseball fan of a contending team has to look themselves in the mirror and decide if they’re up to it again. On a baseline level, I know this sounds crazy but stick with me here.
Being a fan of a bad team is easy. You know that your team is bad from game 1 up until game 162, the status quo never changes. Your team is bad, you know your team is bad, your team knows it’s bad and every other team knows that your team is bad. The same can be said if your team is just a world beater and everyone knows it, a la this years Chicago Cubs.
However, things are entirely different if your team doesn’t fall into either one of these categories. Thankfully the Dodgers are closer to the latter than the former, but that doesn’t really quite make things easier for fans. When you are in a position like the Dodgers, second place in your division, but ahead in the wild card race, comfort is not a luxury that is readily available.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) July 25, 2016
As the Summer drags on and it becomes July and the August and so on, every game takes on a little more meaning. Every game is a little more stressful and a little more high leverage. Every 1-0 or 2-1 lead taken into the late innings becomes less and less comfortable. The feelings of joy and jubilation from winning games early in the season are replaced with relief that you didn’t lose.
Joy and Despair
Not to say that the games are devoid of any positive emotions though. The in-game highs are much higher and the lows are exponentially lower. Generally you find yourself wanting nothing more than just to reach the end of the 9th with your fingernails more or less intact and a full head of hair.
Late season and playoff baseball gives you feelings that can not be replicated by any other sport, and really, anything other thing in life. For example, I can say with relative confidence that these next plays are two of the happiest and memorable moments of my entire life.
Whereas this next video crippled me in a way that is honestly rather embarrassing.
WARNING: This video contains graphic images and is not safe for work and really anywhere else for that matter.