I have semi-religiously watched nearly every single Tigers game this season. By "watched," I mean either I physically attended (okay, that's just one game) or literally watched via MLB.TV (at least parts of 100-130 games) or checked scores on my SmartypantsPhone (often suspiciously, or surreptitiously, or more like "aw screw it, I don't care if they see me checking baseball scores or not.") I have all-too-often known the scores, and often the counts, and could usually be relied upon for trustworthy information and stats by less devoted, more casual fans.
You wonder how someone can be that interested in a 162-game season? I don't, not anymore. It gives me somewhat of a window into how someone could pay attention to all 80ish NBA games. (I don't know the real number, and I don't care because the NBA is stupid and nobody could possibly be interested in all 80ish games. Or so I thought.) You really have to love the game, have a dog in the fight, or love the game and have a dog in the fight.
This is how you care about 162 games: You watch your team fight for first place, maintain it, put it away, and clinch a playoff spot. Even the worst teams (except the very worst - sorry Cubs and Astros fans) stay mathematically in it until the last couple weeks of the season. Then, suddenly it's the playoffs and every game actually does matter, as much as a sporting event can matter.
So the Tigers made the playoffs and I hoped for the best. They weren't favorites by any means. They ousted the A's, who were widely regarded as one of the best stories in baseball this year because they won, and they shouldn't have won. Pretty much. But the Tigers beat 'em.
Then they swept the Yanks. And the story wasn't "Wow, the Tigers sure are good," it was "wow, what's wrong with the Yankees?" Naturally, we Tigers faithful were incensed. But we swept 'em.
Then, we got five cursed days off before we played the Giants.
The Giants? What in the world were they doing there?
Oh well. I didn't hate the Giants. Yet.
So we waited through those five awful, boring days off to see our team play again. And they presumably sat around and waited for the Cards to take care of business.
But no. The Giants.
The stupid Giants.
They should have been eliminated, but played and won three games with their backs against the wall. They made the series on bonus time. Borrowed time. No pressure. And if you've watched the World Series games (and YOU BETTER HAVE) you probably saw that. They're loose. Screwing around in the dugout. Man, I hate the Giants now.
I freaking hate the Giants.
I didn't hate the Rangers. I respected them. We weren't supposed to beat them. Last year in the ALCS we were old and rickety and hurt and tired. No, we had no business there. We were overmatched. We could have played way over our heads and still lost.
But we're better than the Giants. We are, aren't we? I thought we were. But now we can't even buy a base hit.
We're better than we're playing. I'd have a lot less of an issue with us losing the World Series team if the Tigers were at least playing their best. Not beating themselves.
Game one, we were rusty. Game two, a few bad breaks early on, then we forgot how to hit. Game three, back home, and - nope, still can't hit.
Tonight, in about 25 minutes, game four starts. It might be our last game of the year. So they have to win now. But - teams don't come back from being down 3-0 in the World Series. I just pray they don't get swept. They have to win now.
If they survive tonight - hey, they've got Justin Verlander tomorrow. Best pitcher in the game. Win that one, then you've only got two more to win. And there might be some pressure on the Giants.
It probably won't happen. If it does, it will be the most thrilling thing in sports in my lifetime.
You can always say "hey, there's always next year." True. The Tigers will get better next year, I think. Victor Martinez will be the DH, not Delmon "ALCS MVP by some miracle" Young. (I can't fault Young, though. I'd rather have a guy who sucks all year and comes up big in the playoffs like him, than - dare I say it? - a guy like Prince Fielder who smashed the ball all year and has done nothing but whiff in the playoffs.) And our pitching is great. And all that.
But I hate that thinking. The odds are severely against your team getting back to the World Series. Get there and win it. Win it now, while you're there. We wait, and watch 162 games (some of us) for this kind of opportunity.
Win it now, guys. Show up tonight.