Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Two Hundred Twenty Four

Ahhh autumn, when the baseball season ends in heartbreak. It is one of the constants of the season for me. Endings and sorrow.

Every year as spring comes and the snow melts away and green returns to the world, the baseball season begins and I find my way to hope once again. This year will be different. All the signs are there. The flaws and failures of last season have been addressed. Exciting new players have arrived. Veterans have rediscovered their form. Through the summer it truly seems as though this time it has to be different. The players themselves even talk about it. There is some comfort that they are as deluded as I am.

It always ends the same. The opponents star players perform miracles, persevering over every obstacle they encounter, while the players on my team seem small, as futile as any human. When it is over they are helpless to explain what has befallen them, as am I. How can a team be great, but not quite great enough year after year? The players change, the managers too, only the failure remains.

When I was young I played baseball and fell in love with the sport. I followed other sports – hockey and football in particular – but baseball was the only one I really loved, the only one I have continued to follow with any kind of the intensity I did as a child.  In those days I was blessed. The hockey team in these parts won a championship, the football team won several, and the baseball teams of the Greater Dominions were dominant, always contending. The team of my youth even won back to back championships.

That seemed the way of life, but now I have learned the hard truth. There have been no championships for me to celebrate since then, only disappointment and mediocrity. The Greater Dominion’s baseball teams slipped into mediocrity and one was even disbanded, sent south. I lost my heart for the game for a time and wandered away from those teams in sorrow.

When I was ready to return to the game I found my heart wasn’t in it in the same way. The teams I cheered for were mediocre or gone and I wanted something that could capture that feeling I had when I was young. So I decided to choose another team to cheer for and went with the team of the player whose name was on my very first baseball glove: Fernando Valenzuela. A truly magical name.

The team was a contender in those years, but hardly a juggernaut, which meant they were entertaining but the losses at the end of the season didn’t carry any particular sting. It just felt good to be a part of something again. But these last five years they have transformed themselves into an elite team, great by any measure, and greatest in the heartbreaking ways they find to lose.

I watched little of it this season. It seemed too strange, a shortened season, no fans, and the spectre of the dread lord hovering over everything. Yet when the playoffs began I returned and it was as though nothing had changed. I was hanging on every pitch, agonizing over every at bat, even as I dreaded what the outcome would be.

Why do I do this to myself, cheer for these players I don’t know from a city far away in another country? There is no reason to it and yet I can’t stop myself. I curse that child and his Fernando Valenzuela glove and all the misery it has brought me.

This year, this cursed year, I was reminded why I do this to myself. Why I cheer, despite the madness of the season, the corruption and fecklessness of its leaders, despite everything else. I do not have to wait for spring to allow myself to forget the dull ache that sits in my stomach and seems like it will never leave and find my way to believing again. They won, they actually won.

It seems hard to believe even now. They were the players who performed miracles, who rose to the occasion as never before. I hardly understood what I was feeling as I watched it happen, for so long have I braced myself for disappointment. Because it is this year – this utterly cursed year – the grippe reborn did not stay away. A player tested positive and should not have been allowed to play, and yet somehow was. It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, which is very much of this moment. Nothing can be pure, not even our happiness. But it is enough. They won, they finally won.

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