I am as surprised as anyone who follows baseball. The Detroit Tigers have the best record in baseball. This fact is so frightening to me that it is only with great trepidation that I can speak of it. It's like I'm some cave-dwelling ancestor that fears the sun may not rise again after setting. Today is an off-day in the schedule and that afforded me time. The courage is all mine.
Any baseball fan will say that you never mention that your pitcher has a no-hitter going. This is kind of like that. I have defended the Tigers when friends or family say that the season is a fluke, that the wheels will come off soon enough. Friends and family say things like this to me because they know. They know that I rarely miss watching or listening to a game, even during the dark years of the recent past. At the end of the 2003 season, last game, the Tigers were losing and on their way to the worst record in Major League history, I left the house. I went to a bar to watch the final innings. I didn't go their in disgust, or because I needed to tie one on. I couldn't be alone at that moment. But the Tigers won. I was energized, and ready for the next year.
The next two years started with promise, but ended with more disappointments. In past years, when someone casually threw off, "The Tigers suck," I said nothing, but I felt like someone insulted my family. I was there through it all, following the games, staying up for extra innings. It's quite embarrassing. There's a scene in "A civil action," where Robert Duvall plays a high-powered attorney. He is sitting in his firm's library-storeroom with a sack lunch and transistor radio tuned to the Red Sox. He hears someone coming and turns the radio down. An associate appears and meekly says another attorney said a recent court filing should be brought to his attention right away. Stone-faced, Duvall lectures the associate about this being "my time," and that he shouldn't be interrupted. I know better. I know that Duvall's character is more embarrassed that everyone knows where he is on game day. That's me sometimes. Money, sex, power, friendship, comfort, happiness, all fade into the background.
I'm not crazy. I can still function in the world. I just don't always want to.
The darkness is behind me now. Now, the Tigers are winning, and winning big. The Tigers are winning in the early innings and the in late innings. They are winning in extra innings. They are winning on the mound and in the batter's box. The Tigers are winning with stupifying defensive plays, and by making endangered species of opposing baserunners. Star pitchers like Kenny Rogers have 10 wins in the first half of the season, but so do rookies like Jason Verlander. Todd Jones has 20 saves in 23 opportunities, but if he needs rest, Fernando Rodney has seven out of nine opportunities. Magglio Ordonez has 15 homers, but so does Marcus Thames with fewer at-bats. Brandon Inge leads the team in home runs with 16. He usually bats eighth or ninth.
When I was five years old, I thought the Tigers would win the World Series often if not every year. I was in college before they won the Series again, and I had learned what a difficult accomplishment that is. I nearly wept in 1987 when the Tigers had their last post-season loss. When this season started, I feared that Detroit would finish under .500 again. Now, I dread the possibility that the Tigers won't make the playoffs.
This is my first article on gather. There is more to me than this, but I'm trying to conquer my fears. I'm a baseball fan. A Tigers' fan. I won't hide anymore.