This Wild Card Game Was Different
First, an apology to Zeke: I'm about to write about the ways in which last night's game was not the equal of the game in 2013, and you of course were unable to attend last year. I hope that you will read this and find some compensatory solace in your unique experience of following the game on a computer from Beijing in the middle of the night.
2013 had a quality of emergence. It was something that has never happened before--a one-game, winner-take-all playoff in a city that hadn't hosted a playoff game for an entire generation. No one knew how the crowd would behave, how they would act and react. The emergent results were magical, now forever burnished into our memories by the defining moment of the Cueto chant, the dropped ball, the Martin home run. As we saw last night, the circumstances of the game were a determining factor. None of what happened last year could have happened if the events in the game hadn't conspired perfectly to allow the legend of the Pittsburgh Wild Card fans at PNC to emerge. But they did. Things interacted, and magic emerged. I'm glad that I was there.
This year, ESPN and MLB talking heads in the pre-game chatter explicitly identified the Pittsburgh home crowd as a potential factor in the Pirates' favor, based on last year. That identification of the Wild Card crowd as a something caused me as a member of that crowd to be aware that something was expected of me. I now had a defined role. Right before ESPN went live, the scoreboard admonished us to go crazy for the TV audience, and we did. The same thing happened last year. But this year, it felt more like we were part of a staged TV event. Last year, we were just going nuts, and we didn't need any of the stage direction--we would have anyway because, holy shit, here we were.
I was also acutely aware last night that I don't and can't hate the Giants. Last year it was Chapman hitting Cutch with what seemed like a clear intention to intimidate, Dusty Baker and his subsequent dissembling, echoes of Phillips vs. Hughes, the culmination of a couple of years of apparently bad blood between division rivals. Contrast that with the Giants. The Panda. A bunch of white guys named Brandon. Can you really summon any bloodlust over the Panda and the Brandons as adversaries? One of the Brandons will soon be Gerritt Cole's brother-in-law.
I can't. Hell, I like the Giants. I was at their stadium and am not entirely sure I don't like it better than PNC. I ate the Gilroy garlic fries and am pretty sure I do like them better than those served up by the IMO overrated Primanti's. They would be damn good on a sandwich.
We tried to summon up this year's version of the Cueto chant, but all we could come up with was a half-hearted "Madd--eee," subliminally suggested by the name of the National Anthem singer, which happened to be Maddie George. Maaad-i-son, emphasis on the first syllable, would have worked better.
So yes, this was different. The game was too.