Anatomy of the momentby Azure Texan
November 15, 2012
It is the bottom of the eighth, Game Five of the 2011 World Series, and along with 50,000 other partisan loyalists who’ve coughed up a mortgage payment to score a seat, I am screaming with some great conviction the surname of the burly Texas catcher, who with the bases loaded, one out, and the score tied 2-2, is digging in at the plate.
Of late, more than any other Ranger, Mike Napoli has embodied the Platonic form of possibility, the hylomorphic potential for an exceedingly positive outcome—in this case, a run-scoring single, an equally productive sac fly, or even a childhood-dream grand slam—and thus has the right-handed hitter with the linebacker chest become the home crowd’s greatest hope for happiness, the sort that turns a moment into something archival, something that remains a part of your treasury until death comes to snatch it away.
As for me, I am sitting seven rows behind home plate, in a seat so expensive it should have come with power steering and alloy wheels, and while Napoli stands waiting for the first pitch to arrive, waggling his bat in an airy coil of potential energy, I am cupping my hands in a makeshift megaphone and giving a hardy shout-out to a family ancestry that stretches all the way back to Italy. Granted, to a rational man of American make, the Neapolitan province would seem an unlikely contributor to the local sporting landscape, but in a universe where, in the words of Nietzsche, “all things are chained and entwined together, all things are in love,” it is not beyond imagining that while a man named Rzepczynski prepares to deliver the pitch, I should chant the Italian pronunciation of the parliamentary republic’s third-largest city.
Echoing through the park like a buoyant battle cry, all joy and unleashed conviction, the chant carries with it a collective expression of faith and expectation, of trust in the impending outcome and, equally, in the man who might deliver it, as though in this ad hoc chorale a shared confidence has found its common voice. No, this isn’t a moment of grim tension, the kind you see year after year on those baseball broadcasts when middle-aged women in sectarian jackets nervously steeple their fingers in the form of prayerful hands, or when factional men with clenched jaws and anxious eyes perch their home-team caps in rally fashion atop their autumnal heads, hoping against probability for an emancipation from pending doom.
No, this is the voice of optimism, of faith that the immediate future will unfold in such a way that the long-term future will never leave it behind.
This is the trust that the next moment, or one soon after, will last a lifetime.
Now let’s back up a bit, let’s rewind. Let’s discuss for a moment the man who is sitting in—well more like standing in front of—Seat 18 of the seventh row behind home plate of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Let’s acknowledge that this is not normally the seat he occupies. Normally, the seat he . . . the seat I occupy is a leather living-room swivel chair with a sloping back and wraparound arms ($550, Overstock.com) positioned 10 feet in front of a 46-inch flat-screen inside a comfy room in west Austin.
The roar is utterly seismic, and the stadium, in response to the roar, has begun to sway and shake. Meanwhile, the dude to my right is screaming so fiercely that his neck is a weird filigree of distended veins, but I still can’t hear him above the noise. His voice has been soaked up, assimilated, by something bigger than what his ticket represents. To my left, my wife, too, is shouting, but her exclamations are likewise absorbed by the vox populi.
On the other side of the black mesh barrier, in a locus of manmade light, stands the man on whose bat, and, to a greater extent, on whose genetic endowment of kinesthetic sense, the future is delicately balanced. Meanwhile, exactly 60 feet six inches before him, on a mound about 10 inches high, looms the man on whose left hand the future is likewise contingent, in the form of a ball whose cooperation he plans and maybe prays for. At five ounces in weight and nine inches in circumference, the ball is one of millions that Rawlings puts out, each identical in build but unique in the potential it embodies, like a bullet in a drawn-out war. Cranked out by the indifferent gears of assembly, the bullet could land harmlessly in a field or lethally in a heart, and in similar if not quite equivalent fashion, the ball could find its duty in a double play to end the inning or in a dinger that clinches the game.
The hitter stands ready, at the cusp of a moment that consequence will not ignore, while at the same time, with my happiness almost absurdly attached to his left arm, a man named Rzepczynski peers in to his catcher, settling on the pitch on which history will hinge. For their parts, the fielders and the fans have found a visual convergence between the mound and home plate, in the 60-plus feet in which the future, yielding to pious supplications or to the physics of a cylinder in search of a sphere, will inevitably take its form.
The air we share, all 52,000 of us, is a faithful medium, honest with the facts of its content. Owing to the null trajectory that photons have found convenient, light speed guarantees the gospel truth of perception, that what I see is what is happening and that what is happening is what I see. The push of a button will not suspend the action, placing in abeyance the outcome you are too afraid to watch. And no push of another button will speed this whole thing up, fast-forwarding the outcome you are too excited to wait for.
The air is staunchly of the instant, keeper of everything current, everything that so fluidly divides the precursory act from its pending line of successors, those events that slip through the sliding doors of contingency to become what the broadcasters talk about and what the sports writers publish, dispatching to perpetuity the keystrokes a moment inspired. Still unresolved, like a cosmos in wait of its bang, is the story those keystrokes will shape.
There is no doubt, however, as to the story I wish to unfold.
And I am chanting with the legion, chanting just prior to the pitch, when in an instant that seems to decelerate time, forestalling the future by bringing the past into sharper view, I come to a realization so vivid that it seems captured by a magnifying lens: that this moment—bases loaded, one out, tie score in Game Five of the World Series—is one I never bothered to dream.
Indeed, as a kid growing up in Dallas, I never once envisioned, even in a sugar-induced haze, a World Series appearance for the hometown team. The Rangers, like an underachieving schoolboy at last shipped off to an out-of-state aunt, had come to Texas in 1972 and set up in a rinky-dink ballpark adjacent to a theme park alongside a turnpike in a run-down in-between suburb, and from the start, everything about them seemed second-rate. The uniforms, the logos, the ballpark and even the brand of baseball—all were substandard, not uniformly terrible but invariably cheap, as if made in a secret sweatshop. Conditioned by the mediocrity to which the Rangers had been heir, the fans expected little and had their expectations confirmed.
As a kid, you didn’t go to a Rangers game to watch them vie for first place; no, you went to see your favorite player—on the other god-dang team. You went to see Reggie Jackson or Wade Boggs, not Toby Harrah or Pete O’Brien. You went to see Juniors Griffey and Ripken, not seniors Paciorek and Hough. Sure, even in the early years, there were some pretty talented Rangers: Fergie Jenkins, Jeff Burroughs, Gaylord Perry, Jim Sundberg, Al Oliver, Larry Parrish, Buddy Bell and of course Nolan Ryan, who by notching a pair of no-hitters and beating the bejeezus out of a man half his age would become the embodiment of Texas baseball. But nobody except the clinically optimistic, and perhaps the chemically deluded, ever really thought the Rangers of Texas would hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy.
In later years came better Rangers: Sierra, Palmeiro, Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and A-Rod, whose extortionate presence in a Texas uniform only made a pretense of the Rangers having arrived.
Even after the new stadium opened in 1994, the Rangers still had the look of a second-tier franchise, spitting out teams that with few exceptions might finish at .500 but never play for the shiny prize. As if produced by the Convention and Visitors Bureau and labeled For Entertainment Purposes Only, the Rangers always made for a fun Saturday night—a chance to drink overpriced beer and to eat preposterously orange nachos with very good friends, rendering the game incidental and the outcome of no account. Granted, there were times when the fifth win of a five-game winning streak, coupled with the sixth beer of a seven-beer night, conjured up bizarre images, complete with the separate realities of a low team ERA and a diligent DH who for the sake of the squad would continue his Dianabol cycles, of the Rangers making a run for the pennant. But alas, morning would come, along with the dawning dyad of a wicked hangover and a middling Texas roster.
For every team . . . turn, turn, turn . . . there was a season . . . turn, turn, turn . . . except for the freakin’ Rangers. Middle-of-the-pack seemed their birthright, with exceptions made for dead-ass last and the occasional first-round exit from postseason play, which, truth be told, seemed a lot like losing your virginity without being allowed the benefit of the big release.
Still, if you were really honest with yourself, you’d have admitted to the mortifying truth: that you still felt privileged and even honored whenever the Yankees came to town. It was like, “Really? The Yankees? From New York? In this ballpark? Adjacent to a theme park? Alongside a turnpike? In a run-down in-between suburb?” Frankly, it was like having The Rolling Stones not only agree to play at your prom but actually show the hell up.
Rewind now, go back: It is the bottom of the ninth of Game Four of the 2011 World Series, and with the remote in one hand and a beer in the other I am sitting uneasily in my otherwise comfortable chair, watching, waiting and actually sort of praying, to the nearest god available, for something good to happen, even if what’s to happen onscreen has already happened in space.
The Rangers are up, 4-0, a score that could hearten even the most devoted disciple of the it-ain’t-over-till-it’s-over doctrine, and yet with one out and runners on first and second, Albert Pujols is stepping to the plate, wielding the power to change a future that by now is history, dispatched to the books as a series-tying win for the Rangers or a comeback win for the Cardinals.
Yeah, it’s over, but as far as I’m concerned, the fat lady ain’t even hummed.
Pause: Like many a sports fan with a newfangled television and a rational conception of time, I often record games on my DVR and watch them later, usually at a two-hour offset and mostly in an effort to condense the viewing experience into what matters most—namely, the game, thereby turning Jimmy Fallon and other occupants of repetitive ad space into easy fodder for three-times-the-norm fast-forward. After all, I ask, why spend five hours watching the ballgame when I can spend three?
Sure, by employing the Merlinesque power of the DVR and rendering Mr. Fallon a pawn of sped-up chronology, I trade the thrill of live action for the less-dramatic satisfaction of time management, enrolling myself in the brotherhood of Type A types who hit the snooze button just once and later tell their coworkers that a morning workout is key to a profitable day. I sacrifice up-to-the-moment suspense in favor of the task-list productivity that two-day seminars encourage and that weeklong seminars really support.
Still, for my money, DVR’ed action has always remained “plausibly live,” pulling me into its drama with the same intensity of a Miramax Films production that, in actual fact, was filmed a full 18 months prior to release, long before Kirsten Knightely or Keira Dunst or whatever her name is appeared on Letterman or Leno and said, “Oh, do we have a clip?”
Honestly, as long as you don’t know the outcome—that is to say, as long as you bury your iPhone six inches deep and live reasonably far from Buffalo Wild Wings—what’s the difference between watching the game live and watching it plausibly live? Sure, a cynic might claim that modern TV, with its time-warping devices, alters the reality of he who watches at home by turning a reasonable facsimile of time-sensitive truth—that is, sports on live TV—into a pliable version of what aims to be real, thereby severing the televised action from the moment it truly occupies and removing the witness from the legitimate tension of the unaltered instant, the unfolding now.
And yes, it’s true that by DVRing the game and consigning its action to the whims of fast-forward, rewind and pause, you remove the perception that this thing is happening right now, in a separate dimension of space but in the same dimension of time, but you also get to skip Cialis commercials that show self-assured middle-aged dudes, remarkably manly vis-à-vis the low achievements of their dysfunctional dongs, rescuing horses from the mud.
Play: Albert Pujols is digging into the box, positioning his hips and tucking his shoulders to assume the form of the thing you fear most, the monster in your closet, the devil in your head, the killer whose calls are coming from inside the house, the hitter, in truth, who with one swing of the bat can turn this imminent Ranger victory into a one-run game. Toeing the rubber, at least on TV, is Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, a man whose 1988 date of birth suggests that he should not have such a dramatic impact on my life, but there he is, a man of 23 on whose 100 mph heater my joy is teeteringly poised.
Still, even as the big right-hander peers in for the sign, I come back to the truth of this timeline, the one I occupy in relation to the one on TV. History, in the form of the events that create it and not just the accounts that comprise its record, has already registered the outs and the runs of this inning. Out here in the real world, in the inertial frame of reference that informs and encloses every perception, the Rangers have won or the Rangers have lost.
“Right now, in real life,” I say to myself in the swivel chair, “I am either extremely happy or extremely depressed. I just don’t know which yet.”
The temperature was preposterously ideal, and as I stepped from the driver’s seat in Lot F at Rangers Ballpark I said to my wife, “Is this Heaven?”
“No,” she replied. “It’s Arlington.”
Times had changed. We had just parked on the site of the old Arlington Stadium, stopping atop the ghosts of Mikes Hargrove and Cubbage, of Steves Buechele and Howe, and now, as we stepped toward the trunk to retrieve our camera, we moved with equal insouciance across the phantoms of Brian Bohanon and Benji Gil, of Bump Wills and Billy Sample, of the hundreds of other Rangers who’d played for pennantless teams in a rinky-dink park that had long since surrendered to implosion and paving over.
It was only 5:15, about two hours before opening pitch of Game Five of the 2011 World Series, but already the tailgaters were tailgating, raising beers and spirits in advance of the pivotal game. Above them, as if Heaven had colonized this North Texas tract, the sky stretched clear and blue to each horizon, and the breeze ferried the warmth of the late-day sun.
The stadium, with its roofed home-run porch and upper-deck frieze, stood waiting on the south, hearkening back to an era well before that of the old stadium and therefore boasting an architectural aesthetic that called to mind the Shot Heard Round The World rather than the failed hit-and-run you really didn’t see from the blistering-hot bleacher seats in August of ’93.
We began walking toward it, weaving through parties that in previous years might have lasted deep into the fourth inning and recommenced in the eighth, often with Jell-O shots but never with conversation regarding the Rangers’ shot at the Series. Those days had been put asunder, buried beneath the lot, and their legacy of low expectations had at last met with dismissal in the joy outside the park. The air sounded of hope and high expectations, and as we approached the gate I realized once and for all that the Yankees weren’t coming to town. The Stones weren’t playing the prom. This was about the Rangers, a team whose 40 years of futility had generated the moments to come.
Onscreen, Feliz has begun his windup. Pujols, being Pujols, is locked and loaded and looking exactly like a nightmare in double-knit garb, with the worst of the terrors lurking in his hips and arms. Destiny, for its part, has submitted to the mechanisms of his pending swing, and has aimed its hinges at his hands and eyes; the ancestors, though long dead and buried, still live inside his cells, and there they’ll convene to govern his timing. There, too, they might stand aside, powerless to the progeny of Fortuna or Feliz.
Meanwhile—well, no, it’s more than an hour after the fact—I am sitting in a chair that suddenly feels less like furniture and more like a cell, a tiny lockup that despite its comforts is a space I can’t escape. The sloping back and wraparound arms now define my incarceration, a strange custody that allows for only degrees of swiveled freedom. Frightened by a showdown beyond my control, I am indeed a prisoner of the moment, an inmate of the time it takes a five-oz. ball to travel a 60-foot six-inch space, and, more, a captive of the time that precedes it. I am a man whose liberties of mind and emotion are surrendered to keepers outside my reach, the keys handed over to a pair of men who on the strength of various seedings are sharing a time and place.
And no, I am not of the same time and place. I am twice offset, by spans of 200 miles and 60-some-odd minutes, but still here I am, unable to escape this detention and helpless against the anxiety it fathers.
On TV, the pitcher’s face is covered in sweat, a sheen of past effort and maybe of immediate fear. As for Pujols, his is a mask of conviction and poise, as if predestination has tapped his partnership and he is soon to do his duty to a future that is already known. Here under this roof, however, joy and despair wait together, adjacent but wholly apart. At the cusp of delivery they wait for their summons, each prepared in full measure for the sound—the striking of wood or of leather—that sets it off, apart from its reverse.
My heart keeps pounding, pounding, pounding as I wait for the effect to divulge its reliance on the nuance of the cause. My mind, and whatever seat it has given to the soul, yearns to know the end without needing to confront the means. The middle distance is too long, too painful, too much a test of the toughness that only victory can reward, and I wish only to know at this very moment whether to groan or to cheer without having to endure the trip.
Before me the two men stand, very much poles apart.
When victorious, one will point to his Heaven.
When defeated, the other will take a walk.
At last, initiating what cannot be returned, the pitcher lifts his leg.
This is the televised moment, lagging well behind its real-time source, which divides the known past from the irreversible future, and suddenly I can’t bear my place inside its grip. I can’t bear the playing-out of history, the drawn-out tension that accompanies the unfurling now, the sense of not knowing what is already known, the feeling of impotence against a mediated chain of events. Seeking escape, I at last reach for the lone means of control, the sole instrument of free will in the face of a so-called determinate system.
I grab the remote and aim it at the action.
I press a button, and the world is changed.
Turning toward me, my wife shakes her head and points to her deafened ear. Cupping my hand to the side of her head, I shout once more, louder this time, with a volume that just might overcome the sound of this crowd.
The exhortation—“Na-Po-Li!”—has been seven-plus innings in development and longer in the making, the culmination of all that came before. What the crowd is saying is that the time is now; earlier, when my wife and I first arrived at our seats, the time was 5:40, and we gazed with satisfaction at a stadium fit for the world: TV lights made halos where once there were none. Luminaries—“Hey, that’s . . . !”—gathered on the landscaped grass. Sunlight came at a painterly angle, as if from a heaven made for framing.
Registered in the faces all around us was the rightness of another stale cliché: Electricity really was in the air. It was a thing and not a feeling.
In time the Jumbotron read: World Series. 2011. 5:53. Baseballs rang out from batting practice and rattled around in the seats, and you knew that possibility was in the air—with each groan or cheer it might later take the form of. Handed rally towels at the gate, fans burned nervous energy by waving them long before any rally could license their use. Out on the field, the players in their colors continued to hit and stretch, all in preparation for a time that hadn’t yet happened but that would certainly arrive. Meanwhile, back in the stands, more and more fans were showing up and joining the fabled “buzz,” a sound, charged with expectancy, that a solitary figure could never reproduce. The sound seemed to start nowhere but to be everywhere.
Pictures seemed patient for cameras to find them, abiding in the faces at the batting cage, in the last of the sunlight against tri-colored flags, even in the fans themselves. As if equipped with an innate understanding of time, as well as a desire to preserve it, fans snapped photos of whatever the viewfinder could fix on, and when finished they’d hand their cameras to strangers and ask, “Mind taking a picture of me and my (spouse)?”
Assuming a pose that seemed at once artificial, manufactured for an experience that did not separately exist, and profoundly suited to the occasion, they’d stand with their backs to the playing field and smile, perhaps happy in the knowledge that the moment had demanded the pose.
“Let me take another one,” the stranger would say, “just in case.”
World Series. 2011. 6:45. Out in the batter’s eye, workers unfurled a great Texas flag, its left side an astral swagger but its right side a nod to something larger, something that might bind her people to episodes they wouldn’t have seen. At 6:58 the fireworks went off, streaking gold and pink against the evening sky, and then the anthem arrived and for the first time ever I sang. Patriotism didn’t call me so much as the moment implored my voice. I sang it loud, top-of-the-lungs loud, with everybody else. We had paid big money to occupy these seats, and no amount of embarrassment would sabotage our lease. My wife and I had even packed an ice chest with food and drinks so that our night would settle into fullness. We’d waste no time with concessions. This was our ticket. These were our seats.
The innings came and went, one half at a time. Each seemed a thing to hold onto, a souvenir so compelling that it removed the need for another. And yet the prospect of another, and then one more, was enough to convince the conservative mind: Let go of what you’ve gathered and make room for what’s to come. The moments were true to their content, the spaces loyal to the time they framed. Action unfolded at the pace of its making, independent of audience needs, and yet to watch it wasn’t just to witness it but to partake, to be a member and not just a voyeur. Each pitch was a suspension of consequence, the middle distance a field of opposites just .4 second in length; bliss and misery attended every release point, deferring consummation to a time at the plate, but the pitch never called for hostages.
It never demanded obedience to the outcome alone. Liberty had left detention to the 2D screen, consigning to Panasonics and Samsungs the custody of the at-home audience, and our freedom was to know the completeness of every fastball to paint the corner. It was to know the height, width, depth and duration of every curveball to catch too much of the plate.
Contact separated suspense from knowledge, using wood and cowhide to solve one uncertainty while initiating the next: the irresolution of the baseball’s arc, the tension between leather and grass. The mystery was made of breeze and not pixels, and we could breathe it in. In space all around us, TV cameras were beaming into living rooms the image of the air we lived in, the air we felt. Climate-control had nothing to do with it, yet it was at 72 degrees and smelled of peanuts. It sounded of disappointment exchanged for confidence, and confidence yielding to the groan of a called strike three.
The groan would give way, at first grudgingly but then with an upsurge that necessity seduced, to the rising sound of hope. A song in search of its choir would quickly find the voices, 50,000 in strength, and the solidarity of devotion would take hold of the bodies in the seats. They were sealed with the air between them rather than partitioned by far-apart walls. Strangers would high-five in temporary friendships, and hug their way toward the bottom of the frame. The space between innings was both an aftermath and a prelude, its capacity doubled by overlapped importance. Like the space between pitches, it was not to be ignored. It was to be embraced.
In swivel chairs and on sofas, meanwhile, people stared at their TVs. They cursed and shouted at them; they pleaded and bargained. They begged the batter to get the job done; they besought the pitcher to throw a damn strike. They watched it live or plausibly live, but the fact remained that they didn’t watch it in person and so the lone enjoyment came in the payoff they had hoped for and not in the moments that might create it. They watched in order that the action, and in particular the result, validate and reward their investment of time. They watched so that the product might square with their loyalty, even if their loyalty was only to the happiness they craved. In truth, it was a purely selfish act, stripped of involvement with the state of affairs but suffuse with entitlement, the sense that fandom required compensation.
I knew this because I had been there. I had been in that chair.
I knew now that whenever I had sat in that seat, my cheers weren’t cheers for my team so much as they were cheers for myself. I knew now that whenever I had applauded, I had applauded my own satisfaction, the fact that the team had paid back my capital of hours spent in the swivel position. After all, I could have watched The Office. I’d seen that episode already and knew how it turned out: funny, gratifying, and free of anxious moments but for the regional manager’s social faux pas. As a model of risk/reward, with the dividend a known quantity, it would not have impressed social science, but in an era when 24 hours is deemed insufficient space for the duties we’re expected to juggle, it would have been an efficient use of my time. Instead I had watched the game, ceding to mediated images the pivot of my personal happiness and manipulating time in order that it serve my private interests.
But now I was here, in a moment the past had supplied.
For seven-plus innings I had embraced what the game had given. I had stood from my seat and let the instant take me in. I had sung and hollered and jumped around, perfectly willing to embarrass the man I thought I had been. In previous seasons, whenever people had performed the wave or some other demonstration of conformist thought, I had always sat contrarily in my seat, using stubbornness as civil disobedience against the status quo. But tonight I had done everything the moment asked, and more. I had danced the Cabbage Patch at random times. I had done the Cotton-Eye Joe. I had sung Minnie The Moocher at considerable volume, during the seventh-inning stretch. I had cheered at the Jumbotron’s every solicitation, and during a particularly tense Cardinals at-bat I had thought, “Well, let’s just see what happens. If we get ‘em out, great. If they get a hit, they’ve earned it. So let’s just see.”
Now here I stand at the axis of history, cupping a hand to my wife’s right ear. “Dudette!” I shout through the chanting. “This is so much fun!”
Sitting in my chair and unable to abide the tension, I point the remote at the action and press fast-forward, and in the silence of acceleration Pujols has flied to center and Holliday has struck out. Relieved, and removed from the fears of plausibly live baseball, I rewind and watch it again, at normal speed.
I celebrate with a nod.
“This is amazing,” my wife replies, just as the crowd cries “Na-Po-Li!”
Together we turn to the field of play and wait to watch the pitch.
On the evening of Oct. 26, 2011, with the waning colors of daylight straining through the living-room window, I sat in my chair and turned on the TV. Owing to some kind of butterfly effect in the meteorological operations of Earth, or to the divine intercession for which the Cardinals and their fans had surely prayed, Game Six had been postponed by rain, and in efforts to erase the vacancy, I pressed play on the game I’d recorded.
It was also the game I’d attended. Well-versed in modern methods of capturing the moment, I had DVR’ed Game Five in order to turn our experience into a private memento, a souvenir more durable than memory and something of a second nativity, allowing us to relive what we had hoped would be a Texas victory and what had been, in fact, a 4-2 Rangers win.
And there I sat, in my chair, watching myself on TV. And there I was, in front of my seat, pumping my fist and jumping around. I remembered the moment: the snapping-off of the slider, the call of a key strike three. I could still feel the thrill of the pivotal out, could still feel the emotion that attends the chemistry of now, the conversion of uncertainty into what is suddenly known and later recalled. And I wondered now if some future state of affairs—some tragic moment that had not yet taken shape—could retroactively negate the joy I had once and twice experienced. I wondered if bliss, registered first to the space of its making, is then preserved in retrievable form, or if it is conditional on developments that other forces control.
I kept watching. I could see it now, as I had seen it then: Rzepzcysnki’s pitch, as if fated to a spot reserved for a bat, breaks slowly into the zone. And in that instant where possibility morphs into probability and where probability becomes the surest thing, I know that Napoli is soon to pound the ball. Later he will tell the TV audience that he heard the chant—heard the “Na-Po-Li!”—and had no choice but to honor its intentions with a game-changing hit, but at the crack of the bat and for the briefest of instants, his future disclosure waits in the void that only the intervening moments can fill.
Almost immediately, as the ball traces a trajectory toward the right-center field wall, I let out a shout the likes of which I might never know again. I shout toward the heavens that agreed to this sound, and though the larger volume soaks up my voice and adds it to that of the masses, I continue to vent the euphoria in the way my body demands. From the depths of my gut, driven up by a history of spoiled raptures and dormant exaltation, comes the sound of a feeling so great that no amnesia will ever steal it away.
Now, at home in my chair, I press rewind and watch it again. I relive a moment so great and a feeling so deep that memory will not forsake them.
A night later, having pressed play, I sit in my chair and watch. I watch as Feliz comes slowly to the set position and then delivers the pitch to Freese.
It is late afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, and for the past few hours my wife and I have been sitting in our car in Parking Lot N of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, waiting out the Noachian rain that has pounded North Texas all day. We’ve looked forward to this game for weeks—our first in-person game of the year and a game when the Rangers, we’ve hoped, would at last clinch the American League West—but as time ticks by and the rain keeps falling we at last concede defeat to the ruthless bully of very bad luck.
The following night, determined to attend the makeup game even if it means a wee-hour return to Austin, we groan through a 4-0 deficit and go absolutely nuts the rest of the game, fidgeting and screaming and finally flipping the bird at the Angels when the home team clinches the 8-7 win.
Just one more victory, we tell ourselves, and the division is ours.
Yes, I do record the Wild Card game, but no, I don’t bother to watch it.
Azure Texan is a writer living in Austin.
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