There’s a crisp in the air, the green leaves of summer are changing colors and falling from the trees, and baking ovens are beginning to give off the odor of pumpkin and cinnamon. Yes, it’s that time of year again –– Fall –– which also means that it’s time for the playoffs in baseball. After another memorable regular season, a few of the boys of summer get one more month to become legends of the fall. In October, the MLB playoffs take center stage on the American professional sports landscape.
And why not? As the long six-month season begins to drag with most teams falling out of contention, suddenly the field shrinks down to eight teams who compete against each other to determine a champion at the end of this month. Only the best teams get a shot at a ring, and there is little room for error. The playoffs demand the most physically, mentally and emotionally from players, managers and coaches alike. The playoffs are a uniquely special time to watch a game of baseball. With the participants being stretched to their limits, you are bound to see things you wouldn’t normally see during the regular season.
Jimmy Dugan famously said in “A League of Their Own,” “There’s no crying in baseball.” But actually, you may see a lot of crying in baseball during the playoffs. Of course, Shirley Baker was crying for being yelled at and not for losing a playoff game, but nonetheless, Dugan’s quote has been appropriated to mean there is no crying in baseball period, so I will not only defend but also praise crying in baseball. As I mentioned previously, the playoffs stretch every player, manager, and coach to his limits physically, mentally and emotionally, and crying seems to be the natural response when you push that limit emotionally.
Crying seems to be the ultimate response in extreme situations. We cry when we are depressingly sad and we cry when we are ecstatically happy. We associate crying with sad moments in our lives like disappointments, breakups and deaths, as well as with moments of particularly joyful fits of laughter, reunions with loved-ones and momentous achievements. Crying is our response in extreme situations. It is a release when we can no longer go any further –– a physical manifestation of our inability to give any more emotionally.
This month, MLB players, managers and coaches will be pushed to the extreme. Most, if not all, of the teams will at some point find themselves in the inescapable throes of heartbreaking defeat, which will push them ever so closer to the maddening point of elimination. At the same time, many of the teams will taste sweet victory, which will bring them closer to wining that ring. And of course, one will bask in the ecstasy that is a championship. In fact, you will inevitably witness these extreme emotions side-by-side, because in every game one team must win while the other loses. While one team is brought to tears because its season has abruptly ended, another can cry for joy because it has advanced.
But it’s only a game you might say. Why should these multi-million dollar athletes cry over some game when they are being so well-compensated regardless, and when there are much more important things to cry about around the world? Well, I don’t want these players to be satisfied just with a paycheck. And yes, in the grand scheme of things there are much more important things to cry about. But why should an athlete be concerned with the grand scheme of things when he is playing a game? Ideally, an athlete should be emotionally invested in his pursuit. When you see an athlete crying either after a win or a loss you cannot question his or her passion for the game.
This passion is the reason I enjoy watching sports. I enjoy seeing other people passionately involved in what they are doing; it is inspirational. Wouldn’t we all like to find that thing we like to do and passionately pursue it? Through these athletes who perform passionately and consequently are brought to tears in moments of defeat and achievement we live our lives of passion vicariously.
This weekend at Saturday’s field hockey game when freshman attacker Hannah Balleza broke down after a heartbreaking defeat to league rival Yale I was reminded of this. She reminded me of the passionate pursuit which I so admire in athletes and wish to similarly feel toward something myself. This month I look forward to seeing that same passion expressed by my heroes on the diamond. So go ahead and cry, Dusty Baker, if you finally win a World Series. Go ahead and cry, Josh Hamilton, if you lead the Rangers to a long-awaited series victory. Go ahead and cry, Alex Rodriguez, if you lose en route to the World Series, because even though your team won the Series last year I want to see that you are passionate enough not to settle for anything less than the same this year.
Original Author: Brian Bencomo