The Yankees' eyes are still red from last night's champagne shower. My own eyes are bloodshot from staying up till the wee hours watching all the postgame wrap-ups. The victory parade has been scheduled. The "World Champions"-festooned merchandise is being hawked.
So what do I do now?
I'm a lifelong Yankee fan, a booster of the most successful franchise in baseball history. But over the last decade or so I've become steadily less enamored of the postseason. It's not because of the Yanks' notable October failures in recent seasons, and it's not because we've won so often (10 AL pennants and seven World Series titles since I started following them as a wee lad in '77) that I've become jaded. It's that, win or lose, once the playoffs are over, whether you're popping the bubbly or doing the thousand-yard stare in the opposing dugout, there's no more baseball.
Baseball isn't like football, the blessed once-a-week event that fans spend six days preparing for. Baseball's a 162-game grind, not counting the spring training and postseason games. Whereas football games are like having special guests over to the house for whom you have to buy food and drink and clean up the TV room, baseball games are like having your buds come over to hang out for a couple of hours. For seven or eight months a year, your favorite team is in your living room, becoming a reliable, regular part of your day-to-day existence.
I got nothing to do tonight -- guess I'll hang out at home and watch the Yanks. It's pouring out -- why don't we order some takeout and check out the ballgame? They're playing in Tampa tonight, it's not raining there. Yeah, I know I have a work deadline to meet, but Andy's pitching a gem and I got sucked in. It's the 8th inning, it'll be over soon. Which restaurant are we going to? Do they have a TV at the bar? It's Yanks-Sox tonight, the rubber game. (Special thanks to my baseball widow wife, whose good humor and stoicism rarely fail her when I say such things.)
If you're a non-fan, you're probably ready to implore me to get a life. Well, that's the great thing about baseball -- you can have a life, at least during the regular season. You get 162 chances to see your team in action, so missing a couple of games every now and then for the sake of being a normal, functioning human being is no big deal. Unless the Yanks are playing the Red Sox. But that's another story.
For me, and I'd guess for lots of baseball junkies as well, the focus of our ardor isn't the last game of the year. It's all the games that lead up to it. In a weird way, I love those barely-relevant series in May against mediocre teams as much as I love the tautness of a tight playoff match-up in October. Those are the games when the real fans, the armchair managers who analyze stats and plot strategy year-round, have the game pretty much to themselves. A time of year when affordable tickets to Yankee Stadium can, believe it or not, be had relatively easily.
And I love how each regular season game, no matter how awesome or awful, is but a tiny piece in the large mosaic that comprises a baseball season. If the Jets blow a game to the Bills, that's more than 5% of your schedule right there, and you get a week to agonize about what went wrong. If the Yankees lose two out of three to the godawful Washington Nationals -- as they did earlier this season -- who cares? There's another series coming up, a chance to make things right, an opportunity for slumping players to get hot and guys on a roll to stay hot. You can't dwell on yesterday too long, win or lose, for tomorrow's game is about to smack you in the face.
But when the World Series ends, no matter how your team did, everyone goes home and we're left to face winter alone. Or worse yet, with the Knicks.
So now that the ride is over, even though this year it's my team holding the Championship trophy and going "WOOOOOO!", I feel a little lost. For the next 3 1/2 months, I'll have no Jeter, no Mariano, no A-Rod. No Nick Swisher, no Damaso Marte, no Phil Coke or Jose Molina or Brett Gardner. And for that matter, no Michael Kay barking, "Track -- wall -- SEE YA!" No Ken Singleton reminiscing about his playing days with the Orioles. No Bob Lorenz saying, "Good to have you back with us on the Yankees Postgame Report." No John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman to make me appreciate how rarely I have to listen to games on the radio.
Where do these people go 'twixt November and March?
And can I come along too?