You don’t realize how much something means to you until it breaks your heart.
Game Five and the Humanity of Mookie Betts
The San Francisco Giants have lost. After winning 107 games, a franchise record, they lost in game five of the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers on the check swing heard round the world. Their magical season is over. Gone just like that on a check swing. Sure there are many other things that factor in. Mookie Betts and his four hits are one thing. Another is Cody Bellinger and his stricken shoulder coming through in the clutch. Or Julio Urias pitching, well, like he always does, lights out, or nearly. Oh yeah, and Mad Max being mad. But the check swing!
It keeps playing over and over again on Twitter, or Bleacher Report, or wherever you get your heart-wrenching daily clips from. Here it is again. Scherzer throws the pitch. Wilmer Flores seemingly checks his swing. Will Smith appeals to the first base umpire, Gabe Morales. Morales signals with his right hand that yes, Flores didn’t check his swing. Giants’ first base coach, Antoan Richardson buries his head in his hands. The Dodgers celebrate, and rightfully so, around an embraced Max Scherzer and Will Smith.
At first, there is rage. Nothing seems right and everything is unfair. You try to tell yourself it’s just a baseball game. That it doesn’t matter. You behave like a child. Say things that you hope the neighbors don’t hear. Proclaim to your wife that you aren’t going to watch baseball for a very long time. That you surely aren’t going to watch any more of the postseason. “The World Series can go to hell!” you proclaim.
You walk into your bedroom and take a seat and then get up and take another seat. “Breathe,” you tell yourself, “just breathe.” Finally, you catch your breath and regain composure. You rejoin your wife on the couch and sheepishly apologize for your juvenile behavior. You watch a t.v. show that has nothing to do with baseball and come down further to earth. Your feet are finally back on the ground. But being the masochist that you are you have to watch the video again.
Mookie Betts Replay
You watch it again and this time you are sad. Your heart hurts. You want to blame Gabe Morales, but really he’s just doing his job. We all make mistakes you tell yourself. You want to hate the Dodgers, but without them, there isn’t this great series or this lifetime of Giants/Dodgers rivalry. The Dodgers are needed, as much as you hate to admit it. They are needed almost as much as you need the Giants or baseball for that matter. And then, just as you are about to hit that little ‘X’ in the right-hand corner of your iPhone screen you notice Mookie Betts.
So you watch the video again. This time paying close attention to Betts. It’s right after the shot of the Dodgers mobbing around Max and Will. There is Mookie jogging in from the outfield. He is happy, there is no doubt about that, who wouldn’t be, but his expression is nearly stoic. He looks as though he’s trying to be respectful of the heartbroken Giants’ players, coaches, and fans. And sure, his stoicism doesn’t last long, but there are those five seconds where he shows that humanity, you know the kind. Betts can’t contain it. Empathy exudes from him. If he tried to keep his compassion in he would most surely combust. You can’t help but like him even though he’s a Dodger.
You smile for the first time in nearly half an hour. Baseball has got you again. You swore you’d never return, but then there’s Mookie. You look over at your wife. She knows what you are thinking. So maybe just a few games this postseason…just a few.
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