I once heard Bernie Williams talk about how quickly you can go from goat to hero in baseball. (As someone who wants a baby pet goat, I paid attention.)
But what stuns me more, as a generally well-rounded person, is the vast difference between sports highs and sports lows for the fan. I am familiar with this situation because I watched last night’s Yankee game. Losing, losing, losing, grumble, grumble, grumble, then unlikely scenario yields a tie, then absurd, impossible, ridiculous scenario leads to a win and I go to bed deliriously happy and perhaps a little Yankee-smug.
Bear with me here. When I’m reading fiction, I’m always very put off by the moment of implausibility—that scene when the author knows he needs to raise the stakes, push the envelope, so he makes his character do something I don’t believe the character would do. That’s when I yell “No way!” and throw the book across the room.
Yet this is what keeps me loving baseball—I see the impossible happen. I can’t argue for a more plausible series of events. It is what it is. To quote the radio voice of the New York Yankees, that’s baseball, Suzyn.
Raul Ibanez, aka Yertle the Turtle*, did the same thing in the bottom of the 9th and 12th innings, tying and then winning the game.
Yertle didn’t get his first at bat of the game until the 9th inning. He came up in place of the antihero, Alex Rodriguez, a Yankee reviled by many fans of the very team he plays for.
The hero got to replace the antihero and tie the game. Three heightened-stakes innings later, he won the game with a first-pitch home run. Absurd. And FANTASTIC.
This does not mean I will be more tolerant of unbelievable moments in fiction. They will still make me fling the book across the room. I only believe the unbelievable when it actually happens. I’m often the only one still awake, yelling at the TV, “NO WAY. NO WAY!”
If I had baby goats, I bet they’d stay up with me to watch.