You do not want to be around me right now. You don't want to be the next person that calls me on the phone, because that sound jangling in my ear might just be what sets me off. It won't be pleasant, and you can count on that. I'd turn back if I were you.
Isn't it funny how the one thing you know for sure can turn out to be the one thing that lets you down when you need it most? It comes from taking things for granted, from getting so used to the sun rising in the east every morning that it's a little disconcerting when the world starts spinning backwards.
It's not as if anything was done with the specific intent of knocking me off my axis. Whichever way the world turns, I know it doesn't turn around me. But for some reason I take it personally when rivers start running uphill. Even if these jarring events weren't directed at me, even if others have a bigger stake in whether the rain falls down or up, it makes me uneasy. It makes me queasy. It pisses me the hell off.
So that's why, when Jose Cruz Jr. dropped that easy fly ball in the bottom of the eleventh inning today, I took it as a personal affront. I know he didn't do it on purpose, and he probably wasn't thinking about how much I was counting on him. But he's caught everything that's been hit in his direction since he first put on a Giants uniform back in the spring. He's made difficult, nearly impossible catches, time after time. He's saved runs with his catches. He's saved games. His unfailing ability to run down the ball is one of the reasons the Giants are in the playoffs in the first place.
But it hurts. It hurts me to see victory turn into defeat so easily. Anyone could have caught that ball. There are about a hundred and fifty outfielders in the major leagues, and thousands more in the minors. Not one of them would have dropped it. My four and a half year old grandnephew would have put it away without flinching (unless he was talking, in which case he probably wouldn't have noticed it coming right at him and falling straight into his glove).
After fighting from behind the whole game, taking it into extra innings, and then finally scratching out the lead, the Giants were just three outs away from a glorious triumph. I wasn't celebrating yet, because you don't do that. This isn't football, where people go into a victory dance at the slightest provocation. Baseball is a game played according to rules of decorum. Too many bad things can happen if you take a one-run lead too lightly.
It wasn't supposed to happen today, though. It wasn't supposed to happen to me. I didn't sit through a hundred wins during the regular season just to see my team play like amateurs when it counts the most. I haven't sweated out slumps and injuries and trades to see it come to this. I haven't put up with rookie mistakes just to see a veteran player make a fool of me, right there on ESPN2.
I'm a little down tonight. During the long, long baseball season, there's always a game the next day, and a loss, even a tough, unexpected loss, can't stay with you for long. A loss in the playoffs, though, might stay with you all winter. That's what hurts, that this is the big stage and dreams of glory are slipping away like so many weak dribblers back to the mound. That's what makes it so much more painful. To me, anyway.