I didn't always enjoy the baseball post-season for its own sake. There was a time when I couldn't watch the games if the Dodgers weren't involved. I was so heartbroken, so angry at the fates, so angry at the teams, those cruel, unjust usurpers who had buried the Dodgers under their excellence and ruined my fall. Eventually, I would come back, and grudgingly watch the World Series, muttering that it was where the Dodgers should be. I might pick a rooting interest, out of spite, against a league or team I didn't like, or whim, just to pretend, for a moment, that my favorite had indeed made it to the ultimate series.
Now I enjoy the post-season on its own merits, for what it is. I follow the games, judge the evolving chances of each team, pick favorites, criticize managers, and immerse myself in the drama. I pray for late-inning drama, the chance of the sudden turnaround. Hmm --- perhaps I don't pray --- that is too desperate, too lofty a description for what I do. I grope for that drama. This at-bat is important, a turning point, an event accompanied by a virtual soundtrack, because if he gets on it may start a rally. A 2-0 count is already a baserunner if I need runners for the game to be close again. Surely that batter will get on in some way from such a fortunate count: it would be uncivilized not to. I'm already racing ahead to the home run hit by the wispy center fielder!
Uncivilized? What could that mean, really? Civilization is the institutionalization of the expected. The stone-tool hunters of millenia ago didn't have predictable, regulated lives. They couldn't depend on a trip to the supermarket. They couldn't depend on the 2-0 count becoming a baserunner; the 2 run late-inning lead becoming a win. But then again, neither can we. Between the lines, the hunt is on. Baseball is uncivilization brought to the spectator. These brutes come into our homes, our minds, and take our emotions hostage. They make us leap out of our skin. I wish the Dodgers were in it -- there's nothing like it when your team is in it. It's so immediate, visceral. It's an enchantment that transports our civilized bodies into the Veldt, the hunt, the heart-beat of not knowing, truly not knowing what will happen next, and caring with all your muscles what does happen.
I wish, even more, on rare occasions, to know what it was like to be between those lines, to know what it was like to be one of the players in that uncivilized arena. David Ortiz seemed gloriously unhinged at the press conference after today's game in Boston, the win in which he clobbered a ball over the less famous Fenway fence. I just saw a few seconds of his question-and-answer session, in which he seemed to leave his body and return briefly to this existence as a pirate-girl scout who referred to himself in the third person. For a moment he inhabited the state of mind that appears to belong to Manny Ramirez 24 hours a day. Post-season baseball will do that to a person.