While the genesis and timing of the actual decision are still unknown, there was a point leading up to Wednesday night’s American League Wild Card game where I decided that I was going to watch in solitude. Not alone, in a closet, with some tin foil antennae attached to a 16-inch television while I consume beef jerky and water, but free from the thousand-or-so individuals who populate my Twitter feed at any given time1. Though the beef jerky itself sounds delightful, I wanted to be free from the noise—the pitch-by-pitch analysis and valueless play-by-play and electronic onomatopoeias, the “I told you sos” peddled as “truths” and the potential for glass-half-empty garbage that would otherwise take away from the fact that the baseball team I root for had somehow put together a 90-plus win season and was still playing the game I love into the month of October.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious what others were saying. I’d also be lying if I said that the fact that many of the opinions I valued—the cavalcade of WFNY writers who were inside of Progressive Field, thus likely having trouble tweeting due to depleted cell signal—didn’t help make this decision that much easier. I could hear the crowd, I could see the towels. I knew how electric the atmosphere was; the 5.1 surround sound helped propel the waves into my living room. The last thing I needed was to see some local troll or national pundit spew something negative. As easy as it would be to ignore, why invite any ounce of potential negativity into my experience? My thoughts on baseball in the Information Age are well-documented by this point. If the night-by-night noise was excruciating enough, a minute-by-minute account of what was unfolding would have put me over the top.
Danny Salazar’s arm was something to behold. The flailing bats of the Tampa Bay Rays early in the contest were hapless at best. The kid is easily one of the biggest feel-good stories of the year…
The first hit, a double off of the bat of Ryan Raburn—my Goon Squad doppelganger—produced a sizable fist pump. What a resurrection for this guy. The worst everyday player in the game a season ago was providing value almost every night he stepped on to the field—a huge win for Chris Antonetti and company…
Then it was first-pitch home run off of the bat of Delmon Young was undeniably a gut punch. Not only was it a moon shot, it was a moon shot from a player who was essentially a Free Agent just a month earlier. He was a player who the Indians could have picked up, perhaps instead of Jason Kubel (remember him?) if only so that another team could not land him and deploy his postseason-hero ways against them…
This roller coaster would continue on through the course of the game, from the stranded base-runners to the solid production from Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall; Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera swinging at balls to Justin Masterson’s filthy good sinker. I’m a superstitious kid at heart, so when I fetched myself another Oktoberfest from the fridge, I found myself standing at what could best be described as a placekicker’s distance from the television—a few feet back, a few feet to the left. Shortly thereafter, the Indians had runners on second and third with one out. Obviously, my positioning on the Earth’s surface led to this occurrence. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for rotation speed and the ducks were left on the pond, a zero continued to hang in the Tribe’s run column. I would saunter back to the couch, head hung like a Bluth and simply continued watching.
What did the folks on Twitter think? Eh, probably something about Asdrubal Cabrera and hindsight trades that may or may not have even been entertained by another franchise’s front office; potentially something asinine about Jason Kipnis that completely ignored the facts that: He’s an All-Star at a shallow position, is still 26-years old and was a player who, somehow, led the Indians in stolen bases and runs batted in—two otherwise antithetical statistics when it comes to players and their skill set, and is a player who is ranked right next to the nation’s top prospect when it comes to trade value. Who needs that? Usually me, admittedly, but not on this night, not for this game, not for this team.
This winter will undeniably be a long one. In seasons past, I can be found glued to the television set, watching every pitch of the postseason. Every ebb, every flow; every one-out-to-go collapse, every where-did-this-guy-come-from moment. (The 2011 playoffs will forever be remembered given the way that Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter battled in that epic Game 5; the way that the Rangers, just an out away in multiple instances, were introduced—along with the rest of the world—to David Freese.) But not this season. I think I’m done with baseball for the year. Prior years were there because I love the game and because I dreamt of my team getting to play under those lights. Now they have. And now I want to see what they can do in the coming months to ensure that 2013—despite odds, despite statistical inferences and records against teams of a certain caliber—was not an aberration.
I will tune in tonight as my city is, once again, represented in front of a national audience as the Browns host the Buffalo Bills. I’ll check in on Twitter from time to time, avoiding the play-by-play but gazing at the opinions of those individuals whom I value while doing my best to ignore those who want to spout nonsense and vitriol. Let’s be honest: It’s a midseason game for a rebuilding team who has caught some national attention for executed trades and those that are still rumored; the analysis is important and my fantasy teams rely on some of the statistical outcomes. However, I long for the day that the Browns make the postseason and it’s all reduced to noise. I long for the day that all of my teams return to the playoffs and we get to enjoy the successes for what they are, ignoring all of the outsiders who want to influence otherwise.
The 2013 Indians showed us all what it’s like to finally discuss a winner, not just in an instant reaction, ranting and raving kind of way, but in a more macro, “Hey, this is what a winning season is like” kind of way.
One look at Twitter the morning after, and I’m glad to know that I didn’t miss much, if anything at all. The loss still stings, but just a bit. The worst part is that the Information Age requires immediacy. March of 2014 can’t get here fast enough.
Before anyone wants to cast this as some sort of sign of dependency, Twitter is simply the nature of the beast when it comes to this Internet world we trade in. Not experiencing one of the biggest games of the last several years with those who I interact with on a daily basis is, well, kind of weird. [↩]