This time tomorrow, we will be watching the Texas Ranges introduced on the AT&T Park field in preparation for the first game the franchise has ever known in the World Series. It's a big moment, and one obviously hard to take in. The closer I get to the first pitch, the more nervous I become. You become a fan of sports because the games are fun to watch and maybe because they bring a social connection to other sports fans. For whatever reason, you pick a team, and you deal with the losing of that team year in and year out just for the off chance you get to experience a moment like the Rangers are trying for this next week. We Rangers fans deal with a lot of that losing. I'm assuming a championship would make it all worth it.
So, the weight of my entire life of a baseball fan rides on these next four to seven games. That's wear the nerves (and excitement) come from. Through all that, though, a few thoughts occur to me unrelated to whether or not the Rangers will win these games.
If you want previews, you can try the one we've got on the front page, and you should also absolutely check out the one by Christopher at Lone Star Ball.
First, I hope everyone has found time through the last few days to reflect on the great accomplishment this team has already achieved. It's easy to get wrapped up in previewing and predicting and anticipating the World Series, but the importance of winning a pennant should not be forgotten. The Rangers already are champions. They're not the champions of baseball, but they're the champions of the American League, and that's something. There are fans in Pittsburgh and Baltimore who who haven't seen that happen since before Ronald Reagan was president. There are fans in Chicago who are jealous of Pittsburgh and Baltimore. There are fans in Seattle and (maybe?) D.C. who cannot even point to league championships from before they were born. I hope the Rangers win the World Series, but, if they don't, there will almost certainly be feelings of resentment towards this season. I'm not saying you should be okay if the Rangers don't go at least 4-3 to end the season. What I'm saying is, if you haven't already, use these next 24 hours to celebrate while you're guaranteed to have something to celebrate. Treat the team you rooted for like the team that just won a championship, and worry about the extra-championship when the games start.
Think about how far the Rangers have come. Think about 2001, when the Rangers signed the best free agent in the history of the game, and then proceeded to win nothing with him. Think of 2004, when we were excited just by the possibility of making the playoffs. Think about the following seasons, when Texas struggle in attempts for mere mediocrity, and many probably wondered if this franchise would ever get its head on straight. Think of 2007, when the dedicated fans began to see a plan being put in place and a farm system being built. Think of last year, when you could start to see that come together.
Think of opening day, when we bitched and moaned about the Rangers getting no-hit, and how excited we were over Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off single. Think of how huge that game was to you, and then think about the fact that the Rangers would be here even had the lost it. Think about the horrible stretch against the Red Sox and Yankees early in the season that had this team looking like an afterthought. What would you have said to someone who told you the Rangers would smack the Yankees around in the ALCS? Think about how you felt about getting Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina. How worth it do those trades feel now? It's been a long, strange, bizarre trip for the Texas Rangers, not just as a franchise but in this season alone. Standing on the steps of the World Series stage provides a pretty bizarre context for all those moments in this year and those past.
On a related note, I'm not yet ready to say goodbye to the 2010 Texas Rangers. This is my favorite baseball team ever. It may be my favorite sports team ever (it will have to fight the 06-07 WSU basketball team, but I digress). These guys are fun, from the claw to the antlers. From Josh Hamilton's sheepish grin when he does something amazing to Cliff Lee's absolutely calm reaction to everything around him. This team is not only successful, it's fun to watch. They may well be even more fun, or even more successful -- or both -- in coming seasons, but those seasons will all be different, and there's no guarantee they'll be special. This season has been special and this team is special and I love them to a degree that a non-sports fan would probably call unhealthy. And whether they win or lose, I only get to see them play seven more times at most.
Every year when I watch the Super Bowl, I get wrapped up in the game, the thrill, the excitement. It never occurs to me until the final whistle that "oh. . . football is gone." I can only imagine that's what will happen when the Rangers play in the World Series. I imagine I'll be wrapped up in the excitement of the games and never thinking about the ticking clock on this most amazing of seasons. One of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, has this amazing quote that not only fits the moment in the film but sums the the feeling of watching the film for the viewer.
Clementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.
That's how I feel about this season now. It's going to be gone soon. I don't want it to be gone, so I need to remember to enjoy it while it lasts. Hopefully, it will end with champagne (and ginger ale) in the Rangers' locker room. Regardless, in a little more than a weeks' time, I will never get to see these same Texas Rangers again, and, win or lose, that's sad.
Appreciate it, Rangers fans. Just in case you haven't, appreciate it. Baseball comes but once a year, and these team come but once a lifetime.