The anxiety is crippling…another winner-take-all, do-or-die playoff game for the Oakland A’s. It’s hard to think, or not think, or do literally anything while knowing the hell that awaits us. Because in do-or-die games, we always die.
We are extraordinarily lucky to be A’s fans. In the past 20 years (i.e. the Billy Beane era, which comprises my entire adult life), the A’s have made the playoffs 10 times, 2019 included. Only the Yankees, Cardinals, Braves, and Dodgers have made it more often to the postseason dance, and the Red Sox are tied with 10. One of these teams is not like the other…or any other. The team that still plays in a football stadium, and will be playing in it even after the damn football team that shares the building is long gone. The team that plays a distant second fiddle in its own market, yet, against all odds, remains.
But as we know, with many appearances comes many opportunities to break your heart. In only one of those previous nine instances have our beloved green and gold made it past the first round.
That was in 2006. I was there for Game 3 where the A’s exorcised the demons (or so I thought - ha!). I brought my broom to the stadium. When the game ended I snuck up to the then tarped-up third deck and ran around about half of it waving the broom until I had to dodge security and bolt out of there.
Alas, that was the lone glorious exception, and it ended with our boys getting summarily mowed down by the Detroit Tigers in the next round.
Other than that, there were 8 other postseason appearances, and literally ALL of them ended by losing the winner-take-all game 5 of the ALDS, or the even more painful one-and-done wild card loss. Different sets of players, different managers, a remarkable variety of horrible ways to lose, but ultimately the same result.
So how else are we supposed to be, facing a possible elimination game, except as complete nervous wrecks?
But still, we can’t lose sight of why we love this game, and why we love this team. This is the team that keeps giving. Which is why, when the champagne was being poured on the night the Wild Card was clinched, I wasn’t fretting the walk-off loss, but rather celebrating the incredible accomplishment (and to all the party poopers, the hangover crew somehow still wrapped up home field the next day, so you probably should’ve just cracked a beer and embraced the chaos).
Look at almost any other fan base, and then look at the fans of the have-not teams in MLB, and we’re among the luckiest. At times I wonder if it would be better to be in the shoes of a Royals or Marlins fan, basically losing all of the time, and losing badly, but having that magical World Series winning year. But no, I don’t think one title makes up for repeated non-competitive 162-game slogs. And then there’s teams like the Pirates, whose fanbase year after year wishes they could fire their owner, or the Padres, who wish they could have our organization.
As A’s fans, this is our lot in life, our special blessing and curse to bear. And, despite it all, we are so lucky to have it. 20 teams are planning their offseason, and we have something to look forward to. That can never be taken for granted.
So while you’re nervously biting your nails for the next two days and replaying every agonizing postseason loss (you know you can’t avoid it), just make some room to remember how fantastically insane it is that we are crashing the party yet again. And maybe you can remember to have a little fun to go with those butterflies. It’s a blessing to be nervous this time of year.