Monthly Archives: December 2015

ALCS Game 3: More About a Cat, Less About Baseball

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

qiqi1

QiQi /by Anne Ducey

I will remember this game as the one I watched on my first business trip, on the day my cat died.

I was in Binghamton, New York for the New York State Highway symposium. Most of the presenters and attendees were in law enforcement and I got to learn about all the newfangled ways kids are getting messed up these days. One guy shows a video of a man in a parking lot using a can of Reddi Whip to get high on nitrous oxide. Another guy showed us THC-infused gummies. A highway patrolman from Long Island showed us water bottles that had been refurbished with hidden compartments that were used to store packets of heroin. The packets themselves were on display for everyone to see.

After all this I had dinner on the town with a colleague. From what I could see there was a seventy percent vacancy rate in Binghamton’s downtown area. IBM used to have a headquarters there, but they pulled out in 2008 and now the only thing keeping the town alive was Binghamton University.

But there were good places to eat manned exclusively, it seemed, by college students. Despite the hard times, the downtown was not devoid of beauty. Binghamton is surrounded by hills, which were covered in autumn trees that held the sunset in their leaves. The downtown appeared as if it were held in a bowl of fire under a sky of cornflower blue.

I did not see a place to watch the game in town where I would not be the only female amidst a crowd of inebriated middle-aged men, so I decided to watch the game in my hotel room. I can’t say enough about my hotel room. It faced the Chenango River and the sunrises to the east. There were two whole queen beds, a television, a closet the size of a Manhattan kitchen, a bathroom the size of a Manhattan bedroom, and a coffee maker that I didn’t have to share with anyone.

On my first night in Binghamton my had dinner with my colleagues at an Italian place called Little Venice. There was no game that night so I curled up in the bed closest to the window and finished Middlesex in the blessed solitude of my room.

So I was happy to return to my room the following night to watch the game in complete social isolation. I took my coat off and checked my phone, which I had been ignoring. I had been filled with anticipation for this game the entire day, through lectures on pedestrian fatalities in traffic crashes in Queens County, on-the-job law enforcement deaths caused by driver distraction, what a slizzard is, and the true meaning of Like a G6. But a text from my mom, sent to my sisters and me, changed all that.

QiQi has died. I can’t talk about it.

QiQi was one of two cats my mom adopted after Gracie died. Gracie was the cat we got from Santa Claus when I was in second grade. She was the unwavering, undisputed protector of the realm: a cunning and generous hunter who laid gifts of mouse carcasses at our feet, a tireless brawler against felines who sat on the wrong side of the fence. She was street smart, aloof and independent, but always found a way to show her love to us, in her own time.

Gracie was irreplaceable but the house, and my mom, needed a cat.

So for Christmas a few years ago my mom got two of them from an animal shelter. The plan had been to get only one, but thing did not work out that way. Mom immediately warmed up to a black cat called Kenji and five minutes later a silky smooth tabby, whom we later christened Honey, forced herself on us with her unflappable friendliness and endless loving face-plants to our ankles and hands. According to the shelter Kenji had lived with dogs before, so he could co-habit the house with Tuck. Tuck spent most of his childhood bowing down to Gracie. He never forget how she greeted his first enthusiastic, tail-wagging salutation with a claws-out smack on his soft puppy snout.*

When Honey and Kenji first walked through our door Tuck didn’t know what to make of the duo, so similar to Gracie in appearance but altogether different. He offered his snout to Kenji to smell. Honey hissed meekly, but Kenji gingerly sniffed Tuck’s nose and licked is wiry dog whiskers with his bristled cat tongue. After over a decade of abuse from Gracie, Tuck snorted in surprise at Kenji’s amicable, pacifistic greeting. Kenji, for his part, allowed Tuck to get an obligatory whiff his behind, and they became fast friends. Honey lurked at a distance, always in someone’s lap.

Mom loved everything about Kenji but his name. She thought Kiki was a better fit.

“But Kiki is a girl’s name,” said one of her daughters.

But Kiki is the name my mom liked best. The spelling was altered because it was determined that Qiqi was somehow more masculine. Then it was altered again when it was decided that QiQi was more aesthetically pleasing than Qiqi. Don’t ask me to rationalize any of this because I wasn’t the daughter behind it.

For the next few years QiQi would build a reputation for himself as the peacemaker between Tuck and Honey’s conflicts and misunderstandings. Every time Honey cursed and swatted at Tuck, QiQi would hurry over and fuss over him, nuzzling his sloppy dog snout with his sleek cat snout, all the while staring fixedly at his co-cat.

See, dogs are people too,” he seemed to be saying.

But QiQi only spent some of his time on the domestic front. He liked to go outside and range for hours, lurking in the yard and the back lot. If QiQi happened to be outside when Tuck and I went for jogs, he would sometimes try to follow. I would have to gather him, with his ears dangerously flat against his skull, and toss him inside where he would land with a ba-doomp on the hardwood floor. When the weather was nice and my sisters, Tuck and I would go to the park across the street to sunbathe. QiQi always put his ranging on hold to come to join us. It was a strange sight indeed to see young women in bathing suits and an old dog and a black cat all sharing the same blanket in the grass on a hot summer day.

Whenever one needed something from a dresser, cabinet, box, or anything else that opened or closed, QiQi would be there to help, hopping into the opened receptacle and walking on all your clothes, pots, Christmas ornaments to make sure what you were looking for was never found because you probably didn’t need it anyway.

Now when I go home I know I’ll be able to find my underwear in peace and the thought brings me to tears.

These thought of QiQi skittered across my mind like fragments of a broken vase. But mom’s memories of QiQi were much larger, and her grief could not be broken into more digestible chunks.

Watching the baseball game was unthinkable, disrespectful, even. I wasn’t sure what time it was, but it was well past start time. I tried calling Mom, but she did not answer. Having lost a pet was bad enough, and the grief is compounded when you have to deliver the news to each of your daughters, and then you have to try not to cry when you hear them sobbing on the other line.

This is what my Mom had to go through when Tuck died a couple years ago. She called us one by one, each of us in disparate parts of the country, and heard each of us keen and wail in our respective metropolises. Losing Tuck was like losing a strange, wonderful little brother and we mourned him as such. I don’t think mom wanted to go through that again with QiQi.

It was not even ten o’clock. It would have been extremely melodramatic of me to try to sleep, tucking myself in with a blanket of pity. Middlesex was done. Though it didn’t seem appropriate to watch the game, no appropriate course of action presented itself so I turned it on, but not before peeling off some layers and realizing that I wasn’t even wearing my Royals shirt.

It was the top of the of the fifth inning. The Royals were losing 9 – 2. Cueto had basically handed the game to the Blue Jays, allowing nine runs in the first three innings. Given the circumstances, the score made cosmic sense. I watched the game in resignation, exchanging frustrated texts to my sister Beanie, who works at a sports bar in Los Angeles.

We skirted the subject of QiQi and mostly discussed the game. The nature of our communique was such that almost all of the texts ended in ????, !!!! or ?!?! with Cueto’s name featuring largely.

There was also a flurry of texts in the fifth inning when Hosmer’s face took a beating from a ball that ricocheted off the bat, off the ground and then slammed into his mouth. I was certain a collective swoon could be heard from Booneville to Wichita as he winced his much-admired visage.

hosmer hit in face

Not in the face! 

It was hard to see the score so lopsided, but hey, that’s what happens when you let Johnny Cueto’s imposter come in. I mean, really? Nine runs in three innings?

But the Royals keep chipping away and when the top of the fifth ended the score was 9 – 4. Beanie and I told ourselves there was still a chance for us to win—I mean, there were four whole innings left!

And the then the Blue Jays scored two more runs before the ninth inning, making it 11 – 4, and the hope  snapped out of us. The game was as good as over, but I kept watching because that’s what true fans are supposed to do, and because wouldn’t it be cool if we happened to tie the game? Which was truly never going to happen, but what if? It seems like common practice for the Royals to see how far they can push themselves to the brink of losing before they actually win. How distant is that frontier for the Royals?

When the top of the ninth started with a single by Escobar and a double by Zobrist, I was gripped by an irrational optimism. Seven runs are a lot to catch up to, but John Teakettle Gibbons didn’t think it’s enough of a lead and had the Blue Jays closer warming up in the bullpen, which elicited baffled responses from the commentators.

Osuna’s getting loose in the bullpen.

Really?

I mean, look.

I mean, really?

Well, look.

I mean, I really can’t believe they got him up, really.

Could we really score seven runs in the ninth inning? It is only two more runs than five runs, which the Royals really have scored in a single inning…

My optimism was rewarded when Cain scored in Escobar on a sacrifice fly. Only one out, and a man on third. Was QiQi assisting this game from above?

I texted Beanie at 11:14.

Just six more runs!  

And again at 11:15 when Hosmer singled in Zobrist.

Just five more runs!

After two runs there really was a pitching change, really. But then I had to text Beanie again, at 11:19 when Morales, incredibly, hit a homer.

Holy fuck only 3 runs to go!

blue jays fan nervous

getting a little worried

At that point our optimism seemed like a rational thing. Some OMGs were exchanged, and the camera zoomed in to show the facial pores of distraught Blue Jays fans who thought as much as we did that there is a really real chance of the Royals tying it in the ninth.

And then the next two batters were retired.

The ninth inning came and went like a cat. But this is a story not really about the stealth of the cat, but the indiscretion of the mouse. The Royals were as good as dead, hemorrhaging from the fatal mistakes Johnny Cueto made in the early innings. It was said after the game that Cueto was too obviously flashing signs to Salvy. Did he forget he was dealing with Thor and company? Was there lingering cockiness from the shutdown of the Astros that made his nonchalance like that of a mouse who forgets he is a mouse? A mouse that sticks his whiskers a bit too far, tempting a battering ram of unsheathed claws that surge from the shadows?

After having delivered the fatal blows, the cat lurked in the darkness for the rest of the game, biding its time while its prey valiantly struggles back to its hole. The cat would pounce only a few more times—in the fifth and eighth inning, not because it was necessary, only because it was entertaining. In the ninth it looked like the mouse might miraculously succeed it making it home; it could even see a morsel of raw, aged cheddar glowing like a beacon in back reaches of his humble dwelling. That is when, at last, the mouse would feel his body go cold. He did not even see the pair of giant eyes that surveyed his final breath.

In the end the giant cheese was not a vision welcoming the mouse home, but a herald announcing his arrival on the doorstep of the heavens. In the distance among the clouds he sees the strangest sight his eyes would fall upon: a black cat and a rust colored dog cuddling together on a picnic blanket. He rushed to join them.

tuckandqiqi

Stolen kisses /by Anne Ducey

*I did not consult my mom or sisters about the exact chronological order of events or details of our visit to the animal shelter, the adoption of QiQi and Honey, and QiQi’s subsequent name change. Their recollection will likely not be entirely consistent with mine, but that’s what family is for.  

 

 

 

 

 

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ALCS Game 2: A Real Live Wire

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

batshit crazy

Thor

Kauffman Stadium is a bowl of sunshine right now. Light has flooded most of the field and the players wear wraparound sunglasses with Plutonite lenses and Unobtanium frames that make them look like cyborgs. Some  opt for streaks of black paint that are now starting to run down their face, making them look like Scottish warriors.

I’m watching the game with my friend Zack at his place on the Upper West Side. Zack is a ballhawk and baseball writer whose most  recent claim to fame was catching A-Rod’s 3,000th hit and taking his sweet time giving the ball back. His friend Muneesh is also there, and he has a  baseball podcast, The Clubhouse Podcast. Basically, these two have Ph.Ds in baseball, and I’m still in Pre-K. During the game they tweet other baseballheads, look up stats, and correctly predict which pitch will be thrown and why. I can only handle watching the game and sometimes not even that. I’m also trying to eat, but am barely able to dig into my pad Thai. It’s a disappointing rendition, mostly a pile of starch scantly studded with peanuts and a few greasy shrimp.

Zack is cheering for the Royals in solidarity with me. He used to be a Mets fan but resigned after too many run-ins with stadium security. Muneesh is a Tigers fan who, by default, is supposed to cheer against the Royals but out of politeness isn’t doing so openly.

It’s the top of the top of the sixth and the Blue Jays are ahead by one run. That’s better than I expected us to be doing at this point. Ventura was shaky against the Astros but he’s in better form today. He hasn’t glared at anyone or started any fights—important because the Blue Jays enjoy clearing their benches for a good brawl. In ALDS Game 5 against the Rangers there were two brawls in one inning. In some ways it is strange to see this kind of behavior from a Canadian franchise, but in other ways it’s not surprising at all. I mean, look at hockey. Those guys are basically boxers on ice.

I’m getting a little nervous when Donaldson singles off Ventura. Donaldson would have been out earlier had his foul ball not hit a thin wire, one of two in the whole stadium. Perez caught it with his bare hand but it was declared dead and Donaldson got a chance to single. The wire incident was bad luck for the Royals and Ventura seems to internalize bad luck. He is a young person learning how to deal with his emotions, just like most young people around the world, except watching him grow up is a spectator sport.

Next up is Bautista. He walks. There are no outs and that’s not great, but to me, any time Bautista does not hit a home run the pitcher is doing their job. I’m about to take another stab at my pad Thai when Encarnación singles when his grounder slides past Escobar. Donaldson scores, and there’s still no outs. Muneesh lets out a whoop, but stops short of unabashedly cheering for the Blue Jays.

“I just like seeing runs,” he says to me.

Ned keeps Ventura in the game, maybe thinking he’ll dig himself out of the tight spot like Volquez did in Game 1.

tulowitzski aaaaaaah!

He’ll peck your eyes out

Ventura gets one out when the next batter comes up, but here comes Tulowitzski. Instead of painting his cheeks he is wearing black stickers. The sleek slits really make it seem like he is trying to channel the Raven of Death.  He wants to do damage, and does—with a double that his hits on the first pitch. Bautista heads home. My stomach sinks towards the floor, and I’m glad there’s not much pad Thai to go down with it.

Ventura still can’t get a break after this Blue Jays salvo. The next batter, Russell Martin, is walked.

It’s not just a tight spot anymore: it’s about to be a blitzkrieg. Ventura smothers his face with his glove. He is not hiding tears. The downward thrust of his neck and the enlargement of his jugular all belie the monosyllabic expletive that is erupting from his thin frame.

Zack looks at me.

“You alright there?”

Ventura is pulled and Hochevar replaces him.

“I’ll be fine.”

A consensus has been reached by commentators, Zack, Muneesh, me, and everyone watching the game that it is good as over if the Blue Jays score again. But Hochevar offers a fine display of calm and collection and retires the next two batters, limiting the Blue Jays’ damage. I eat another bite of pad Thai. There’s still a lot of game left. We just need Price to start feeling a little magnanimous.

The top of the seventh inning starts with Zobrist swinging at the first pitch and hitting a fly ball that will be caught by someone. Goins or Bautista. But which will it be? They are both running towards it. They’re both there. They’re both about to grab it.

“Crash into each other! Crash into each other! Crash! Crash! Crash!” I am screaming at the television. Anything I can do to help.

They don’t crash. But they don’t catch the ball either! Bautista thought Goins had the ball, and Goins thought Bautista had his back.

I shout whoo, Muneesh shouts whoa, and Zack thinks he should play right field. By the look on Price’s face he probably thinks he should play right field, too. But he’s not in panic mode. It’s just one guy on, right?

But one guy turns into another, and another and we score a run. The Kansas City assembly line is on and where the heck is the off button? Does this thing even come with an off button? Sportscasters have come up with all manner of metaphor to describe the Royals offense at times like these. They like to go with politically correct hackneyed ones, like the snowball effect and the leaky pipe, but I think it’s more like Chinese water torture.

These are the facts regardless of your choice of metaphor: Zobrist has scored, Cain is on third and Hosmer is at first. Morales is at bat. There are no outs.  The camera zooms in on Hosmer and the first base coach, Rusty Kuntz, and they look like they’re scheming.

Morales hits a grounder towards center field and it looks like it could be a double-play. Except that Hosmer is on base two seconds after Morales hits the ball. Morales is out but he drove in Cain and we have a man on second, a man on third.

Muneesh suggests Hosmer was planning to steal second on the pitch, but instead of stealing, ended up preventing a double-play. Two second later the newscasters are saying the same thing. The score is now 3 – 2, and we have a very real chance of tying the game in the seventh.

david price come on guys

Really guys? Really?

Price can’t handle it. The inning could have been over by now. His arms are raised in disbelief, and he is shaking his head. He looks at Hosmer. Why are you even here? I’m a Cy Young winner. How is this happening? 

But it is, and it’s not over. Moustakas, who hadn’t had a hit in the entire postseason, finally ends his drought and makes it to second base on a single and Hosmer scores. It is now a tied game.

There is a new chorus of whoas, and whoos and oh-my-gods erupting from the couch. No one is Tweeting, no one is looking up any stats.

Price still has enough stuff to get Salvy out on strikes, but not enough to prevent Gordon from doubling and scoring in Moustakas. John Gibbons, the portly Blue Jays manager, strides up to the mound. He is shaped like a tea kettle. The tortured David Price hands him the ball, and Gibbons gives him an avuncular slap on the butt.

There is a fresh pitcher. But it’s not over yet, kids, because Rios hits a single. The Royals have gone through their whole lineup and now Escobar is at bat. He gets out, putting the inning to bed, but it seems the Royals’ bloodlust has only been whetted after this five-run inning. In the eighth Cain walks with one out, prompting more anxiety from the Blue Jays dugout. The pitcher is changed before he can even get into the game. Cain threatens only briefly and is caught trying to steal. But this new pitcher lets Hosmer take a stroll, too. And then lets Morales join him. Two men out, two men on. And then Moose hits again, driving Hosmer home. Is is now 6 – 3.

moose is loose

Moose now loose

It really is starting to seem that the Royals orchestrate their victories so as to spread the mirth around a little bit. The other team’s fans get to enjoy the first two-thirds of the game, and the Royals fans get to enjoy the rest.

A sense of calm before the euphoria takes over in the ninth inning because Wade Davis is coming to pitch, and is it known by now that that he is The Man. But there are still whispers of doubt from some corners of the stadium. The commentators murmur: something something want to get out these next three batters something something so he won’t have to face Bautista something something.

 But Davis does not get out the next batter, who gets a single. And he does not get out the following batter, who is walked.

Is this another deliberate plot twist? Are we orchestrating this ninth inning so that we can trade some more joy with the Blue Jays and take it to late innings? It would be great for this narrative arc thing the Royals always seem to be striving to achieve, but it’s horrible for the fans. I mean, I feel like these shrimp could come crawling up my throat any second.

Before the ninth inning started someone, probably me, didn’t want to jinx anything by prematurely declaring victory and suggested that at one point someone is going to get to Wade Davis. I fear the counter-jinx has backfired and that the Blue Jays are going to peck him alive. But what makes Wade Davis great is that he doesn’t let two men on base get to him, at least not in a way that’s visibly notable to anyone (me) who might be scrutinizing his facial expressions for any sign of distress or humanity. There are none.

He retires the next two batters, striking out Revere and Donaldson.  But he still has to face Bautista, the only guy to homer off Davis this year—the only guy to homer off Davis in two whole years. There are two outs, and two guys on base. A homer would tie the game. The whole stadium is shitting bricks. As a general rule Bautista either homers or walks, and every once in a while he’ll get out. Commentators are saying his batting average is way better in later innings, so this is also part of the equation. What will Davis do to him?

It does not take long to find out. Bautista swings at the first pitch and makes contact. The ball is soaring. My god, is it a home run? No. It sails into Paulo Orlando’s glove way, way out in right field, ending the game. Thor is quieted again and it is Kauffman Stadium that thunders instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ALCS Game 1: The Only Thing Missing Was Paul Rudd

I am a Royals fan living in New York City. If anyone wonders why I didn’t post anything in October, there’s your answer. The following entries detail the experience of watching the postseason far away from my hometown, in a much different place where fans from all over this huge country converge. Immigrants proudly display flags of their home countries in their windows and dwellings, but during the postseason, signs of national migrants’ provenance appear on heads and hearts in the form of caps and shirts. Giants fans scowl at Dodgers fans as Yankee stadium looms in the distance–it’s always looming, literally and figuratively. You can see it from the plane as you leave the city for wherever you’re from, and again when you come back. Meanwhile, in stretches of Brooklyn and Queens, and especially on the 7 train to Jackson Heights when you need to eat momos, you’re reminded that, hello, the Mets are here, too! I see lots of Orioles fans, Phillies fans, and yes, even Red Sox fans. There are not many Royals fans here, but the postseason as an expat is never a lonely experience, just a different one.* 

*Disclaimer: These posts might contain cliche images of athletes. Writing about sports means I have to deal with levels of kitsch I am not used to accommodating. I’m sorry. Also, I’ll get back to my Craigslist stories after this. 

rudd hamm

i did not take this picture

Last year I watched Game 3 of the World Series with my co-worker, Adam. He lived in San Francisco for eight years before moving to New York City. He was cheering for the Giants, and I was cheering for the Royals. It was a close game, but we won 3 – 2.

This year Adam promised to cheer for the Royals with me, and together we’re watching Game 1 of the ALDS at a place called Foley’s, year Harold’s Square. It’s a watering hole for bonafide baseballheads, with flags, mascots, bobbleheads and knickknacks of baseball teams present and past, minor and major, American and National.

I chose the place because it’s midway between Adam’s apartment and my house. Also, during the first days of the playoffs, there emerged on the Internet a picture of Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm together at Foley’s, two faces representing both sides of the I-80 conflict. Basically I wanted to increase my chances of maybe someday meeting Paul Rudd. Jon Hamm would have been a bonus, but I didn’t expect him to show his face after the Cardinals were obliterated by the Cubs, which is a little scary. There are murmurs now of the Back to the Future prophecy that the Cubs would be in the World Series in 2015. And now, the prophecy was coming as close to being true as anyone could have imagined. But wait! Here’s a twist! Back to the Future was made in 1985, when the Royals won the World Series! That has to mean something, right? Right?!?

If we survive the Blue Jays and make it to the World Series it certainly won’t be comforting to play against a team backed by a Hollywood prophecy. On the other hand, playing the Mets will be nerve-wracking as well. They defeated the team with the biggest budget in the Major Leagues, who, until now, had the most vaunted starting pitchers in baseball. And they wear orange.

It’s not that I have anything against orange, but in my post—ALDS Game 1  dream a batter in orange, last name Flowers, either struck out or hit a two-run homerun at the bottom of the ninth. I still can’t figure out which. The only thing that had a little clarity was an unmistakable sense of despondency in the stadium, which can only mean to me that someone somehow hit a two-run homerun off Wade Davis. I tell myself the dream is meaningless because there is no one named Flowers on any of the teams—and it’s a dream. I don’t talk to anyone about the dream or Flowers because I don’t want to alienate myself from the rest of society. Besides, we have our hands full with the Blue Jays for the time being and they’re blue through and through.

When Adam and I get to Foley’s there’s no room to sit at the bar, where Paul Rudd and Jon Hamm would have staked their territory; all the stools have been occupied by men who seem like they’ve been parked there since the beginning of the LDS and their backs have been permanently curved into commas. Adam and I are forced to move on.

When we get to the back I’m surprised to see two whole tables occupied by Royals fans. I’ve finally found a place where we have reached something approximating a critical mass! The only thing missing is Paul Rudd.

“Maybe he’ll come by later,” Adam says because he has to, not because he believes it.

I am nervous as I get settled for the game. The Blue Jays lineup has the potential to spark a blitzkrieg and their hunger is menacing. People call Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard Thor because of his blonde locks and his fastball, but the guy who’s really like Thor is José Bautista. His bat is his hammer, and he bashes homeruns that crush the soul—if your soul is Texan. Then he stares daggers into his foe with stone cold eyes. It’s his way of ripping out his enemy’s beating heart and pounding them on the head with it. But even then he’s not done. His final stroke is the bat-flip—his way of playing cat’s cradle with their entrails. Tulowitzski is the raven that flies at Thor’s side, waiting to gouge people’s eyes out. They have no fucks to give and their attitude makes the Astros, even Colby Rasmus, seem like golden retriever puppies. I’m not sure how this is going to turn out.

I’m worried about Volquez. The Astros gave him a hard time in Game 3, but one of the three guys at the table behind me—all Royals fans—tells me that Volquez has been the most consistent pitcher this season. I’m not sure how that forebodes when the Royals’ starting pitchers nearly gave away the most earned runs in the American League this year.

When the waiter comes to take our order, Adam asks for a burger and fries and beer, and I ask for a hard cider.

“You’re not hungry?” Adam knows I eat every two hours.

“I’m nervous.” I tell him I’ll eat when we have a lead.

The opportunity comes in the third inning after a series of doubles by Gordon and Escobar, which produces a run. Zobrist grounds out, but Escobar advances to third. Then he scores on a single by Cain, who also stole second base, earning everyone in the country a free breakfast taco from Taco Bell. Now how about that?

When the waiter comes around again I order a shepherd’s pie. I pray that a Blue Jay bombardment doesn’t happen before I start eating.

volquez for victory

volquez for victory / i did not take this picture

But as it turns out the Royals are doing the bombarding today and Estrada, the Blue Jays’ pitcher, can’t seem to find cover. This game turns into one of the most relaxing affairs a Royals fan could ask for. The Blue Jays hit the most home runs in the American League during the regular season—a whole 232, but the only home run of the game came from Salvy in the fourth inning.

By the time my shepherd’s pie came the score was 3 – 0, and I dig in.

The diminished cortisone levels are affecting my fellow Royals fans and we made the most of it. We are high-fiving while in line for the bathroom, skipping up to each other’s tables for more high-fives, and throwing smug smiles across the room while the other patrons sit aloof, eating their fish and chips and hamburgers and talking about the Rangers.

Volquez seems to be on cruise control, but adds some spice to the game in the sixth inning, when two Blue Jays get on base. I am halfway through my shepherds’s pie and suddenly don’t know how much more I can eat. But Volquez takes a deep breath and retires the rest of the batters–including Tulowitzski, who strikes out for the second time. Bautista walks a lot, but his hammer is inactive. The Blue Jays can’t put anything on the board. We exhale deeply and audibly when the inning ends. The sanguine mood continues, and I finish my pie.

The three men sitting at the table behind me live in Kansas City and are in town for an event at Madison Square Garden. When they find out I live here they suddenly have a lot of questions. What brought me here? What kind of Metrocard should they get? How do you swipe it? Do the trains ever crash? What should they see? Will I be back here to see tomorrow’s game?

I have a few questions myself. Do they live in Kansas or Missouri? Have they been to New York City before? How long are they staying? And did they go to the K for any of the postseason games?

They had—the Wild Card game last year. And they already got tickets to the World Series. I admire their faith, and possibly their foresight. The World Series seems light years away still, but tonight we pass another hurdle.

The game ends 5 – 0. The Royals fans clump together to share high-fives, so does Adam, who never mentions that he’s a Giants fan.

The only thing missing is Paul Rudd.

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