I was one day away from proclaiming 2019 as the first year ever that I went through an entire baseball season without tuning into a single pitch on TV, radio or on my computer.
That’s 162 unwatched regular-season games plus four more rounds in the postseason, covering the Wild Card game, the Divisional Series, the League Championship Series, and finally the World Series.
My hometown Tigers were the worst team in baseball this year, and due to my disdain over the way the franchise is being run, I made the decision very early on to write off the season.
I figured once we got into the playoffs I would start tuning in, but with the passing of each game and each round, I decided that’s it, I haven’t watched a game all year so I’m not going to start now.
Remember the ad campaign for Miller Lite when light beer first came out, the one about “tastes great — less filling”? They argued over what was the more attractive or significant feature of the new lower-calorie brew, taste or the alleged benefit to one’s waistline? It wasn’t all that long ago that physicists engaged in a similar argument over the nature of light, as they wondered what it is, what it’s made of, and if it’s a material substance.
But when the final game of the season rolled around, I thought, this is a game seven! I said to myself that for the same reason you drag yourself out of bed at 4 a.m. to witness rocket launches from Vandenberg, or to catch eclipses or meteor showers, surely you can make time for a game seven.
The phrase “game seven” refers to either a championship game or an elimination game baseball, basketball or hockey. There may be other sports that have seven-game series but these are the major ones and the ones I’m interested in.
Though it’s a sports term, it also transcends sports. It connotes high drama, history in the making, the stuff legends are made of.
It’s mind-over-matter, play-through-the-pain, rise above time and space, as in Willis Reed, the spiritual leader of the 1970 New York Knicks, walking out on to the court in uniform during warmups, after missing the previous game with an injury, to lead his team against the Jerry West-and-Wilt Chamberlin-led Lakers. Though clearly hobbled, Reed scored the first four points, and held Wilt the Stilt to 2-of-9 shooting en route to a 61-37 halftime lead. Reed’s injury prevented him from playing in the second half, but by then teammate Walt Frazier had the game in his pocket, and the Knicks had their first-ever NBA championship.
You have free articles remaining.
How I loved that team, both teams really. I went years on my driveway shooting baskets, replaying that series, with me pretending to be each of the starters on both of the squads. Such is the power of a game seven to a young boy’s dreams.
Game seven is the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential, and the excellence we arrive at when we chase perfection. It’s the moment that etches your place in history and sometimes seals your spot in the Hall of Fame, as it did for Jack Morris, who, in 1991, turned in the longest pitching performance ever in game seven of a World Series, throwing 10 scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves to lead the Twins to victory.
It’s the legend of Bill Mazeroski smashing a walk-off homer against the Yanks in 1960, or Aaron Boone doing it for the Yanks in 2003. The magic of Steve Yzerman scoring on a 60-foot slapshot in 1996. The greatness of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins going toe to toe in the most amazing display of individual basketball talent we’ve ever seen.
And it’s my first, most personal and most treasured game seven, the Tigers over the Cards in the 1968 World Series, with Mickey Lolich beating the great Bob Gibson.
To show how precious that was and still is to me, I now belong to a social media community called “Fans of the 1968 World Series Champion Detroit Tigers.”
So you see, it’s not just a game. It’s a game seven.