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Fowles: The Bright Side of Letting Go

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the last handful of baseball seasons, it’s that it’s so much easier to talk (and write) about your team when they’re doing well. When they’re on top, small talk and conversations with strangers unfold in this gleeful way. There’s a certain sense of exuberance and enthusiasm, a feeling of hope and limitless optimism that makes sentences come easily. Anything is possible, and there’s always so much more story to be told.

2015 was a dream come true for Blue Jays obsessives, and 2016 offered obvious myriad charms, but I think if you ask a lot of people about this season—especially those who don’t think of themselves as total incendiary curmudgeons who take pleasure in pain—a team whose October prospects don’t look good from the start can be hard, or at the very least “unfun,” to talk about.  I mean, what is there to say? (If you’re me, apparently you instead talk about ketchup slippery slides and ballpark squirrels.)

The challenge of the less-than-stellar team only gets worse when you pride yourself on your limitless baseball optimism. Each week I’ve found myself searching through the last place ashes of our dashed baseball hopes and dreams, trying to pull out a tiny, shiny glimmer of hope to hold onto.  A star player returns from the DL. An unlikely hero has risen. A fun piece of absurdity has brought us a flicker of joy. But as we creep towards the month of September, five games out of a wild card spot with six teams ahead of us, I look more and more like a fool trying to sell my “but anything’s possible!” line.

Though there has been moments of possibility in the last few weeks and months, it seems the well of “hey maybe this could happen” has run dry. There’s just no gas left in the tank of hope. And thus, I finally feel ready to say that this, my friends, just doesn’t seem to be our year. The only thing left to do now is take each game as it comes, and—hey, now—maybe even enjoy it. For most I’m sure this is a late admission, and maybe for a few it is still “too early,” but we have to respect that everyone has their own emotional timeline for baseball surrender. 

You’ll find there is some minor good news to be had in the acceptance that 2017 is not the year we get our parade (or anything, for that matter.) Surrendering postseason hope comes with a few overlooked bonuses, something that fans may forget to acknowledge in their general disappointment. (I certainly don’t blame anyone for that—given the last few seasons, we’re out of practice.)

For example, I actually just booked a trip out of town during the World Series. (Though admittedly I did opt for the flexible booking option because sure, there is always a small flame of hope in me that will never die.) Also, I was able to book that time away with the money I won’t be shelling out for tickets in October. It’s a shiny brand new feeling making firm plans in early fall, something that has been totally out of the question for the last few years.

Don’t even get me started on how much less sports anxiety we’re going to suffer through during the next few months—it can be really easy to forget how painful that final run can be. I mean, imagine being a Yankees fan? A Royals fan? A Mariners fan? Imagine sweating buckets, neglecting household chores, and having no non-baseball social life all through September, only to have your hopes and dreams crushed by a despised rival? Sure, we won’t get the incredible elation of victory, but we also won’t get the insomnia or nausea or persistent painful uncertainty.

In short, without a torturous September, we can luxuriously enjoy some final baseball games in the sun. (Bittersweet, I know, but I’m trying.)

Four months ago I wrote the following, and it strikes me that it still holds true today: “No matter how we as fans choose to approach the rest of this season, whatever mindset inevitably gets us through, we too should try to be open and ‘be in’ every game. There are certainly lots of them left to go, and I’m more than sure the ever-surprising beast that is baseball will help us find a way.”

On that note, let’s remind ourselves that there is still a healthy thirty-five beautiful days of Toronto Blue Jays baseball left in the regular season. You know that no matter how hard this year’s run turned out to be, you love this game, and this team, you’ll miss them when they’re ultimately gone.

So go out and enjoy the ballpark. Dispose of the burden of postseason expectations and a thousand daily “what ifs.” Relish in the stress-free atmosphere. Invite your friends to the bar, or curl up on the couch, and be present during every hit and every catch and every out. Arrive at each game completely baggage-free, without the worries of contention and a title within reach, and sing a hearty rendition of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Don’t think of it as giving up, think of it as letting it all feel good again.

And if something unlikely actually happens in the next few weeks, that’s great (flame of hope!)—the bright side of finally letting go is the pleasant surprise when you were totally wrong.