Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Ghosts of Octobers Past

In the glitter-strewn twilight of my youth, early October was always the pinnacle of the year. The crisp Northeastern chill in the air led to the breaking out of jeans and light jackets for the first time. More importantly, the playoffs were about to start. My Yankees hat would affix to my (then-thicker) hair, not ready to come off until the Yankees had won a championship. I wore a different jersey or T-shirt each day, dependent entirely on superstition and nonsense. I planned my days and weeks around the games — where I would watch them, and with whom. The entire town buzzed with a newborn excitement that somehow still seemed fresh with each passing season and banner.

And the games...those epic, thrilling games. The nights were alive with endless possibilities of comebacks and champagne-soaked celebrations. The games were tense, nerve-wracking, but ultimately inspiring, because the good guys always seemed to win. Over a five-year span, I even grew cautiously confident, ready to let my superstitions slip away and acknowledge the possibility that the roof might not be caving in.

Then, the roof caved in.

Beloved icons of post-season clutchness retired, got traded or declined. (What's that? Clutch doesn't exist, you say? Well fuck you, I say. And stop interrupting.) The new crowd seemed to be missing something, and the team started losing. Every. Single. Year. Sometimes quickly, without putting up a fight. Sometimes at length, remaining in the death rattle for hours and days, breaking your heart in every way imaginable.

And now, that cautious confidence has given way to simmering dread. I'm still thrilled that the Yankees are in the playoffs, still fighting while most other teams are home, but I no longer expect them to win. I no longer look forward to the games, counting the seconds until they begin. I watch them out of duty, though I expect the most painful outcome possible. I don't believe in this team, and I haven't since 2004, I suppose.

I can't plan my life around the playoffs anymore either. I have a real job, and I have to miss the beginning of early games, which feels like blasphemy. I can't wear my Yankees hat to work, so it sits in the car from 8:30-5:00, lonely and betrayed. I haven't stayed true to my younger self, I guess. I've let that guy down. And the Yankees have let their younger selves down too. And they let me down by losing, and I let them down by caring a little bit less than I used to.

And October's just another month.