Here it was. The series I’d been dreading since 1994, when Major League Baseball added a wild-card team instead of just crowning two division winners every year.
It was the Giants and Dodgers, meeting in the postseason for the first time.
And for whatever reason, I wasn’t nervous.
This was shocking to me. I mean, I have a hard-enough time functioning when these teams meet in the regular season. The possibility that they could meet in the playoffs seemed like such a nightmarish thought, it could never actually happen in real life … right?
For the longest time, it didn’t. That’s largely because whenever the Dodgers were really good over the past 27 years, the Giants were usually really bad. And vice-versa.
That all changed in the past decade. Blame Farhan Zaidi. He was hired by the Dodgers shortly after the Giants won the World Series for the third time in five years in 2014. He helped build the Dodgers into a powerhouse and then, being the smart bunch of guys that they are, the Giants hired him away. And now he’s built the Giants into an incredible team in record time.
This means both teams are good. Very good. As in, a combined-213-wins good. And because of baseball’s current wild-card playoff system, it meant they were going to meet in the playoffs, in the very first round.
That’s a recipe for a stress-induced blue-and-orange heart attack if ever one existed.
Because, that’s what Giants and Dodgers fans do. We usually put so much emotion and trash-talk into this rivalry, the fans of the losing team self-sentence themselves to days of depression as a result.
Full disclosure: It’s no different on the editorial board of the E-R. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a Giants fan. Rick Silva is a Dodgers fan. I’m going to steal some words from him to put this series in perspective:
“This Dodgers/Giants series is sort of like the moment before you ask the prettiest girl at the dance to dance. If she says yes, it’s the best day of your life, if she says no it is the worst — and you just know everybody saw the whole thing go down,” he said.
“If your team wins this series, it’ll be like the greatest thing ever — if they lose, all of your friends who root for the other team are going to make your life a living hell.”
I know that feeling. In the age of social media, you can’t hide from your friends after a crushing loss. They’ll find you, and they’ll let you have it.
But this time, as the afternoon hours ticked away Friday, I wasn’t nervous, and I found myself pausing to ask why.
I think the loss of a friend had a lot to do with it.
A few months back I wrote about a friend named Randy LaMont who was dying of pancreatic cancer. https://www.chicoer.com/2021/07/17/a-tip-of-the-blue-hat-for-a-dying-friend-editors-notes/Randy was a Dodgers fan. Him and I butted heads over the rivalry many times, not always in the friendliest of terms; when I found out he didn’t have long to live, it put the whole thing in perspective for me.
Randy, in typical Randy fashion, fought as gallantly as anyone could fight. In the end, cancer took his life. But he lived just long enough to see the Dodgers catch the Giants in the NL West standings for a day, and I refuse to believe that was a coincidence.
It changed the way I look at some of these things. I’m still a wreck once the game starts — even Logan Webb’s masterpiece Friday night couldn’t change that. But away from the game, my state of mind is much more “enjoy the ride” than “my life will be ruined if the Giants lose their next game.”
(Until the game starts. Then the juices flow. Randy would be the first to knock some sense into me if I acted any other way.)
In the bigger picture, I think the thing that hooked me on baseball all those years ago was that games really do mirror life. You’re living. You’re competing against other people with the same goals. Some days you do great things. Other days you do stupid things. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And, of course, sometimes it rains.
It all makes for great theater and a great ride. So does life. Respect life, and the game, and eventually both will respect you too.
That’s my takeaway. There are lessons to be learned from this greatest of rivalries, and the big one is this: Live your life, respect one another and enjoy the ride, because this has been one of the most entertaining rides in the history of the game.
And, in this case, when the thing you’ve dreaded for a quarter-century finally happens, you might discover it really wasn’t worth worrying about that much in the first place.
That’s baseball. And that’s life.
Mike Wolcott is editor of the Enterprise-Record. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @m_mwolcott.