It could have been the Rays out there. It could have Jeremy Hellickson going 7 shutout innings. It could have been a pair of unlikely candidates like Ryan Roberts and the slumping Matt Joyce hitting the solo home runs. It could have been Fernando Rodney blowing the save in the 9th on Raul Ibanez‘s home run after he pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez. It could have been Jake McGee that served up the walk-off blast that sent the Bronx into bedlam. It would have stung. Some Rays fans wouldn’t be able to go to sleep at night as the two home runs reverberated in their minds. But it doesn’t matter. We would still have loved it.
As sports fans, we want to see our teams succeed. We want to experience the sheer exhilaration of our team winning and getting cemented in history. And in exchange for that, we’re willing to survive the moments that make us wonder why we invest so much in sports when they so often drain us emotionally. We’re willing to watch in horror as great moments turn into nightmares as everything comes apart. Why? We’re just happy for our teams to have the chance. For every opportunity to disaster, there’s an opportunity for exultation.
Was the 2008 run any less special because the Rays lost in 5 games in the World Series? Was Game 162 not something we’ll always remember because the Rays lost to the Rangers in the first round of the postseason? No. Those moments happened in a vacuum. Time seemed to stop as B.J. Upton got ahold of another one, David Price forced Jed Lowrie to ground out to clinch the AL Pennant, as Dan Johnson let the Rays’ season go down to its final strike before sending one into the night, and as Evan Longoria raised his hands in the air as he sent the Rays into the playoffs. We live for those moments. And we know that any postseason game has the opportunity to be another one. Give us all the heartbreak you want. Make us punch the walls and tear our pillows to shreds. But give us the chance to see another moment that will resonate in our minds forever. Give us the opportunity to stay in contention right down to the wire and play in the postseason. This year, the Rays didn’t get that chance. And even though we know that it will just about kill us to watch the Rays lose like the Orioles did on Wednesday night or lose in Wild Card game on a controversial call or watch the Rays’ hopes falter on the season’s final day, there’s nothing more we could ask for as we lament a Rays season that had its moments but will never be remembered the way we wish it could have been.