Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The legend

What a sweet, wonderful victory was last night's makeup game with the Toronto Blue Jays. Left for dead, the Detroit Tigers rose Lazarus-like from the grave. And who was the savior this time?

Who else, but Maggs.

I don't know if this team will make the playoffs. It doesn't look likely. But what joy they've given us this year amid all of the injuries, all the disappointments.

A-Rod will win the MVP. We know how things go in the American League as far as those bastards are concerned. But every Tigers fan knows how much that long-haired right fielder has meant to this team.

There is a symmetry to baseball. The season begins, the days turn into months, then it ends. It appears in the spring, the world anew, and slips silently away into the chill of the fall.

I'll miss it when it's gone. The game has kept me company during this most difficult year. Kidney stones and palpable pain have dotted this season for me just as much as fly balls and home runs.

Last night, the Tigers secured for me a joy that the Bengals and Ravens couldn't have conjured up in a million years. When Maggs hit the walkoff, 2 RBI double, I was 7 years old again, oblivious to the harsh realities of the world. All that mattered were those two runs reaching the safety of home plate.

That joy, the ability to instantly transport one back to the innocent bliss of childhood, is why this is the greatest game of them all.

Baseball represents the best about this country, the small town, friendly neighbors, five and dime store, "aw shucks" America that Ronald Reagan insisted for eight glorious, illusionary years still existed somewhere in the amber waves of grain. Football is closer to what this country actually is -- big, expansive, violent, knock the other guy on his ass before he does the same to you.

The fact that football has replaced baseball as our national pastime should tell you quite a lot.

For me, I'll take the illusion, the black-and-white comfort of three strikes, three outs, three times three innings and that's all she wrote. I'll keep believing in my heart that Reagan's America really is out there somewhere, even if my head insists that it isn't.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend, or so somebody once said. And, boy, do we ever need that legend now.

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