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Forks In The Road and Lightning of Today: 2004 ALCS Reflections

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Forks In The Road and Lightning of Today:  2004 ALCS Reflections

As the electrifying buzz of the alarm clock jolted me awake, I stammered across the room to turn it off. The morning air seized every fibre of my being with a thousand frozen prickles...and as I gasped, a rush of fear flooded my barely conscious mind...

Stumbling to the kitchen, while cranking up the heater, I grabbed my Yankee mug and began to make my coffee. The pitch black sky outside, ominously watching me through the kitchen window...the corners of the windows, frosty...leaves swirling with the windy rain, smashing against the frozen glass...my heart began to sink...

I'll never forget that idle Wednesday morning, with it's sadness and anxiety...with it's regrets and fears. That was to be a Wednesday of arrival...a Wednesday of relief...a maiden voyage of victorious relaxation and resolution...

It was supposed to be over...fears, frustration, worry, regret...it was to be a thing of the past by Sunday. Done and done. And yet...here it was...still brewing...still breathing...still defying...ominously mocking...

I opened the front door and was immediately ht by an invisible, frozen wrecking ball of wind. A forceful blast of ice mixed with splinters of rain seized my presence...confronting me...overwhelming me...a force greater than me, insisting I relent...I dropped my head as I entered the world that day...

As I walked to work, maneuvering the umbrella this way and that...amidst the broken branches along the sidewalk...amidst the puddles...I prayed. With sadness and heaviness of heart, I asked God to simply help me...help me with how I was feeling. This was simply a game. Baseball. We are either going to go out there tonight and win, or we will lose. The odds were extremely in our favor...and had been...and I really needed to get a grasp on my emotions...click back into reality...

No team, in the history of baseball had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit and won the remaining 4 games, however, was my next thought. Even in prayer, I couldn't stop my thoughts...the very merry-go-round of thoughts that had been incessant for 4 days...and 4 long nights...

Maybe the Yankees were trying to make the series interesting...maybe it was a tickets/revenue thing...maybe they just weren't taking it all very seriously, having already won the first 3 games...knowing the only goal ahead was to win one more...

But the moment for sobriety was today. My team had sat back and squandered their enormous advantage through three more games...landing themselves in a one-game win or go home scenario...and tonight....tonight...was the verdict.

What if? Is it even possible? Could we lose? Why would we? Exhaling...exhausting my worries in my prayers...I threw out a compromise to God...give me a sign...just a glimmer...the first song I hear on my mp3 player will be that sign...okay?

And God answered.

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life."

And I knew. The message was delivered. The answer was unquestionable. We were going to lose tonight. We were going to lose in the biggest way possible. History would be made and we would have allowed it.

When the night sky returned to black that night and I was walking home from work...amidst the broken branches, puddles, and wind...I listened to that song again...I knew I would walk through the front door and the television would be on...I knew it would be about the 7th inning, or later...and I knew there might be a chance my understanding of the postcard message from Heaven might be wrong...

It wasn't.

The Yankees went on to lose the 2004 ALCS game 7...the first team in baseball history to lose 4 games in a row after having won the first 3. The Boston Red Sox would continue on in their quest to reach heights they had only ever dreamt...and would become Champions of Baseball for the first time in 86 years...

There was something about that particular loss that knit itself to my heart and soul. One of the most permeating, marrow wrenching, soul drenching defeats I have ever encountered in my life. I mean, Jesus...it is only baseball. It is only a game...

How is it a sports event can entwine itself into the deepest aspects of the heart and soul? I pondered that idea for a long time...many years...even to this day...and my answer is...I don't know.


Nobody likes to lose.

Loss...loss is pain. Whether it be your English Springer Spaniel who had to be put to sleep when you were at school...or your best friend who had to leave you to attend college back east, on a hot summer day, when you couldn't have imagined pain so deep could exist in your 15 years on the planet...

For me...baseball transcends the field...transcends time and space...the victory and defeat on mere grass with mortal players throughout all time has taken on a fourth dimension in my heart and mind...

A spiritual dimension. A passion I cannot convey. I guess my life experiences just seem to coalesce with what I behold when I watch. Bravery, envy, injustice, tenacity...it's all there. The very aspects of this experience known as life...if you listen very closely...open your eyes and absorb this game...it lives. It breathes. It teaches...and those lessons become specific unto you, the beholder...if you listen with your ears closed and see with your soul open...

From 2004 unto this present day, I have had many thoughts back to that black Wednesday morning...and the following days thereafter...the tears...loss...denial...frustration...knowing without a doubt that losing is absolutely possible at any point in time...grasping the reality that stats really, in the end, don't amount to much...

Smiling and shaking my head at teams like Boston...who were able to toe up to the line of failure and challenge it...who were brave enough to believe...and believed so pure-heatedly that their actions would duplicate that belief...who were not moved by odds...who were unwilling to lose...

The jealousy I developed for that spirit in a team...that moxy...that boldness without reason...realizing the complacency and apathy that resided in my own team...

Through the years I have smiled as I have seen that lightning flash of excellence from all over the league...from watching archived games...and I realize, this, too...transcends time and space...

Today...the New York Yankees hold the best record in baseball...and the season holds roughly 40 games remaining...the Red Sox are struggling to salvage a post-season opportunity...the Texas Rangers are knocking on unfamiliar doors...and bats are swingin...strikes are smokin...plays are being made with the bravest and purest of efforts...

Today, I look across the league...this season that is 2009...and I wonder...after so many years of failing and falling and complacency and apathy...what will become of this 2009 Yankee team...

and...the answer comes to me from long ago. The season will end...someone will win...everyone else will lose...and we will roll around to another season...once again...and again...and...

Winning and losing can, indeed, seem like everything...but...in the end...there is no ultimate win...there are silent, 4th inning with 1 out moments of victory...moments of awesome effort from teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Oakland A's, the Kansas City Royals...perfect games, no hitters, hitting the cycle's...

2009 Has been one of the best seasons for baseball since as far back as I can remember...and...whether it goes up or down for our teams, let's remember as this season comes to an end:

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

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