If your ears bleed while at a baseball game, then there are likely only two explanations: An invisible dragon licked your eardrum while you ate a hot dog, or your team is in the postseason for the first in a while. The former situation is four times as likely as the latter, but you should be cautious of renewed playoff excitement, anyway.
Orioles and Athletics’ fans certainly had to clog their ears in 3-2 counts over this week. The fans have been adamantly supporting their clubs all season, watching them rise from having scoffs thrown in their direction, to going to Game 5’s of the American League Division Series; but there was likely no point in the O’s or A’s seasons at Camden Yards or the O.co Coliseum when the ballparks exploded with the amount of energy that was exuberated during this postseason. Both cities have been wild during the 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs – more so than fans of any other team.
The roar is only reasonable, of course; neither the Orioles nor the A’s have been in the postseason too often over the last few years. The Athletics were last was in the postseason in 2006; Orioles way back in 1997. Fans in the Bay Area have been too used to seeing the large wallet San Francisco Giants make the postseason. And in Baltimore? Forget it; there wasn’t even a sniff of wet-your-pants-at-the-end-of-the-season baseball excitement until 2012. The futility of these two ball clubs and how poorly they were viewed was the perfect recipe. Season embarrassment, desperation, and neglect over years and you get the perfect roundhouse kick to all of baseball, and wild fans to boot. Bon appetit, antagonizers.
The excitement was remarkable. There were orange, black, green, and yellow towels waved for all 402 and 530 playoff minutes at Camden Yards and the O.co Coliseum this past week. The fans were involved from the get-go, no matter how many runs the New York Yankees scored, and no matter how bleak a 0-2 ALDS start looked in Oakland. The fans were soaking up every second of their playoff berths. They were too grateful that they had playoff baseball at last to feel morose when their clubs faced the exit door. The sound in Camden Yards in one game during the ALDS against the Yankees, for example, got so wild and excited that the decibel level was greater than 110 – which is as loud as a rock concert, and so loud that someone’s hearing can be impaired if exposed to such an audible explosion for an extended period of time. So, maybe it was a good thing for the fans’ that the Orioles didn’t score 20 runs a game during that series.
Examples of fans going wild when a baseball team finally reaches the postseason again aren’t that hard to find: Cincinnati Reds in 2010 when they made the postseason for the first time since 1995; the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 when they made the playoffs for the first time since 1982. The Washington Nationals are having a party right now as this article is being written because they finally have their playoff team, too. Fans can’t remain denied forever, so when their patience finally pays off they go nuts. Fans in the Bronx are animated when the Yankees are in the postseason, but the level of appreciation and energy isn’t like that of the teams which overcome ineffectiveness. How can it be when the bar is set at World Series or bust, and even if the trophy is won, the talk moves to winning it next year, just a few days after? It’s not like that for teams like the A’s or O’s. Even in other sports, when the dam of futility is finally broken, the fans release years of pent up relief.
Regardless of the early exit for both the A’s and the Orioles, there was no doubt that the fans were appreciative. There wasn’t the normal widespread sea of frowns in Oakland when Fielder gloved the final out of Game 5 on Thursday, and I’m sure the reaction wasn’t that bad in Baltimore when CC Sabathia took care of the Orioles at Yankee Stadium; there were no riots like the ones in Vancouver, after all. There certainly are some fans that have fallen into the well of self pity, anguishing over why their team loses after finally getting back into the contest of the rich. But the numbers of fans whom have sulked for a moment but then slowly had a smile creep on their face, these fans are still numerable. They’re everywhere – not only in baseball. They’re the patient ones, the ones who know the merit of losses. They’re the ones who understand that memories a playoff team once a half decade or longer can last a lifetime. These are the thankful fans. They know how slow a championship wait can be. But it isn’t enough to make them miserable and give up on their beloved colors. They know that in sports, all waits cash out in the end, bringing in a renewal of exhilaration that is well worth the wait.