DIAMOND DOGS: OK BLUE JAYS, LET’S PLAY BALL

I was offered a ticket last night to the Jays game (thanks, Millie), but I did not go. I wanted to keep watching with my wife and kids because, with the exception of Game 2, we’d watched together at home; under lamplight; sprawled on couches; chip bags and pops; pillows strewn; wrecked (and wracked) with tension. Our evening, or, okay, my evening, was spent pretzeled in seventeen different juju positions that I hoped would affect Jays’ karma (I do not do yoga but I was as close to yogic as I’ll ever be: knees at spines at teeth at tablelegs. I may recover soon, but I may not).  I chose my lucky Jesse Barfield autographed ball– he’d signed it last spring in Kitchener, then hugged everyone in sight– and the Jays scored, suddenly, moving closer to 2-2, but not there yet. At times, it seemed like they would never get equal, forcing me and everyone like me to reel across the things that had made the season good anyway: the summer days watching them waloop the ball in seventeen cities and two countries; that last JD shot in final home series; Kevin Pillar spidermaning the foam wall; sitting behind home plate during my band’s AGO run watching David Price win, as he mostly does; and doing JaysTalk with Mike Wilner one August night and telling about how I’d met Eileen Jacobsen in Tuk, and how she watched games in the bush while getting ready for the goose hunt. All of these were good things, good memories. And here we were, down a run, then even, then down again. And then Edwin. An explosion, a miasma. Game tied. Yet only tied.

Texas– they way they ran, they way they hit, and Cole Hamels– had our faces pushed into tea cups, reading the leaves. Manager Bannister– bone cancer survivor and inveterate minor league with only one MLB at-bat to his name– was unhateable and so was Beltre and Prince Fielder– for god’s sake– who, as a kid, ran around Exhibition Stadium with his dad, Cecil, whom I loved as a Blue Jay. Still, there was fear. There was the sense that our faith would be destroyed; our allegiance mocked. Watching the game through 6 and then– my God– the 7th was to peer through a lattice of your fingers at the end of the room. Love vs Dread vs Fate vs Disappointment. The game cleats your heart, stomach, kidney. YOU HURT. What happened to Russell Martin would have been unspeakable had it not been erased. It was the kind of thing we expected as TO sports fans. In the aftermath, my daughter hid her eyes. My son couldn’t take it. My wife pulled up her sweater sleeves and chewed them. I wanted to puke.

Then assholes threw shit everywhere. Skydome– sorry, Rogers Centre– became part Argos game circa 1970, part European soccer riot, part confused, distressed mammals who realized, suddenly, that to be alive is to suffer this kind of injustice, too. Toronto is, mostly, a sport city stricken. All of the garbage, in the end, was a purge. GET OUT THE POISON. DRAIN IT. It was awful. But I understood. We pretzeled and twisted on and off the couch: more sleeve chewing, more bruised insides. In the bottom of 7, the Rangers kicked it everywhere. They botched the wheel play. They threw crookedly: Beltre rheumatic; Andrews cursed. The Rangers tightened, just so. Fate. Dread. Pain. And then: Bautista.

Last week, me, Mike Wilner, Geddy Lee and Alex Anthopoulos had lunch. Caplansky’s. It’s what we sometimes do. I ain’t bragging (okay, maybe a little), but one thing AA said was this: “I think this (the post-season) will be big especially for Jose.” It’s what I thought as the at-bat started. Toronto hasn’t had many Jose’s. We’ve had gentle Mats Sundin and salt of the earth Wendel and the Robbie Alomar’s wattage. We’ve had wordless Roy Halliday and good guy Tim Horton and the ghost of Dave Keon. We’ve never had an angry vengeful superstar; at least no one as angry or jilted as Jose Bautista is and will be evermore. When he hit it out– 6-3 Jays– it was 1972 and I was hugging the Grade 5 twins whose names I didn’t know; it was 1992 and we’d stopped the van by the side of the road in the mountains to listen to Alomar hit his home run off Dennis Eckersley; it was 1976 and Sittler scored and I was hugging my dad in the basement in Etobicoke; it was ’87, stoned with the guys in Thunder Bay after Gretzky to Lemieux; and, finally, it was ’85, after Lloyd Moseby shot the ball over Allan Trammel’s glove in game one of the penultimate series with Detroit, where, on the aluminum benches of Exhibition Stadium, we hugged and danced and hugged, which is what we did last night: me and my family; my young family; there on the carpet of the livingroom in our socks with the tv blinking Jose’s base-rounding waltz over our shoulder.

I was offered a ticket for last night’s game, but did not go. I stayed home and watched with Janet and the kids. i will never forget it.

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