Bring Unto Me the Little Ranger Fans
Oh, somewhere in this fabled land the sun is shining bright. The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout. And that would be St. Louis, because around Arlington there are 10-, 11-, and 12-year-olds who are now permanently scarred for life because their team somehow, twice came within one strike of a World’s Championship only to have it slip from their grasp both times. And I don’t mean slip from the players’ grasp. When you’re 10 or thereabouts, you know that it is your belief, your faith that is propelling your team to success.
Yes, I am happy for those little Cardinals fans who will regale their grandchildren with the Miracle of 2011, but it is the kids in Texas with whom I identify; the ones who had their hearts broken. I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan, and I lived through—barely—the 1969 World Series. I’m 54 now, and the anguish hasn’t really worn off. As an adult, I can look back and realize that the Mets weren’t really the underdogs that they were made out to be. New York did win 100 games that season, but the 12-year-old in me takes no consolation in that fact.
I know those young Texas fans sat on their couches believing that the Rangers would pull off their own miracle in Game 7. Even as Daniel Murphy’s lazy fly ball to left drifted across the St. Louis night with two out in the top of the 9th, those kids believed that Allen Craig would drop it or that it would get lost in the lights or that a sudden gust of wind . . . and then, there was only disbelief.
When these Texas kids are grandparents, they will spy out their peers and talk quietly about the 2011 World Series, happy to console one another, for they’ll need consoling yet. They’ll talk about how Mike Napoli should have been the MVP in spite of the fact that, well, you know; and they may talk about Hamilton’s home run, but that’s the point at which the conversation will drift to a halt. To relieve the silence, they will agree that the Cardinals should never win another game in either of their lifetimes.
What is most remarkable, however, is that those boys and girls will continue to be Ranger fans. They won’t burn their Texas T-shirts or throw away their Josh Hamilton baseball cards; instead, they will cling all the harder to their Rangers. It’s when you lose that you need your faith the most. To give up hope is to give up.
It is a hard lesson to learn, this adult idea that some times, maybe many times, bad things happen, seemingly without any explanation or reason. Instinctively, however, we humans know how to cope with this difficult lesson: We renew our faith. It really isn’t the winning that matters; it’s the hoping that counts. Hope needs to be exercised—just like one’s muscles—or we will shrivel up to nothing. I guarantee there will be some fierce tears shed on Opening Day in Arlington next season; tears for what could have been, but also proud tears that come from looking out across The Ballpark and realizing that there are at least 50,000 others who are ready and even eager to take another voyage of faith.
Despite all the new sabermetrics, there is no formula that will ever explain that.