By SEAN DIETRICH
I wish you could’ve been there. You are reading this letter in the far-off future, long after I am dead and scattered. But tonight, as I write these feeble words, I hope they will help you understand how we felt when it happened. Because the sports history books simply won’t do the occasion justice.
Tonight, the night it took place, I was sitting in my den, anxiously squeezing a throw pillow, watching the television. My wife was beside me, howling at the TV screen. “Hit it outta the park!” Then she crushed a few beer cans using only one hand.
That’s the kind of agony we underwent on the night the Atlanta Braves, America’s oldest continuously operating baseball team, established in 1871, won the World Series.
My God. I have waited twenty-two years to write that last line.
You’re a child. Thus, you cannot know what this monumental moment means to us middle-aged fools. I don’t know if baseball is important to the people in your future era, but we, your ancestors, love this game something fierce.
I wish you knew how many thousands of innings we’ve faithfully watched over our lifespans. I wish you could fathom how many on-the-road games we convinced our wives to attend, traveling upwards of twenty-nine hours across the continental U.S. only to watch our team lose to the Diamondbacks.
You don’t know how much money we’ve invested in HD television equipment, live streaming packages, expensive ball caps, nosebleed tickets, tepid ballpark beers, overpriced hotdogs that tasted like fried squirrel.
You don’t know how many weddings, funerals, baby dedications, banquets, and bar mitzvahs we have excused ourselves from, faking full bladders, then rushed to the men’s room to check the score.
Yes, I freely conceded that it’s ridiculous and irresponsible to be a baseball fan. Because when you think about it, professional sports is a frivolous endeavor with all the chaos in this world.
But, oh, there is joy in frivolity.
Because life is hard, kid. Not just a little bit hard. Life is bone hard. In this past month alone, three of my friends have been diagnosed with cancer. I have another friend with four kids who just lost his job and now delivers takeout food for a living.
Everyone I know has lost loved ones unexpectedly this year. Family members and friends are constantly being faced with some sort of unexpected tragedy or grievance or major surgery or divorce or disappointment. Each day is an obstacle course. And that’s life, kid.
Ask any adult and they’ll tell you: Life is no day at the beach. In fact, the only thing certain about this life is that you won’t survive it.
Sounds depressing, huh?
Yeah, well, that’s not the whole story, kiddo.
Life also holds wondrous surprises. Colossal surprises. Titanic surprises that will blow your hair back and enrich your soul. Nothing—and I mean nothing—in this lifetime ever goes the way you think it will. And that’s a wondrous thing about being human.
There will be days when you’ll wake up and truly think you’re going to have the worst day ever. Then, suddenly, boom, something incredible will change the trajectory of your entire existence.
Then again, some mornings you will expect to have a marvelous day, but you will end up finding yourself face down in the dirt, bruised and bloody, with a mouthful of infield grass.
And it is during those difficult moments when you will discover the beauty of distractions. Which is what baseball is.
These small diversions can save you from yourself. They can excite you, they can make life seem so much more vivid and rich than it was before.
A bucket of popcorn can suddenly become the most lovely thing you ever tasted. A simple baggy of parched peanuts can bring you to the brink of tears. A Coca-Cola could kill you.
For a few precious minutes, a bat and ball can cause you to temporarily forget the indifference and cruelty of Earth, and bring you a measure of peace.
You will find yourself holding the hand of your wife, the woman who has walked with you through some very hard times, and you will cheer loudly at a television. For once, you won’t be thinking about things that trouble you. For once, you won’t be worried. For once you will root for something that is bigger than yourself.
You will find solace in a silly game. And it will be this banal game your father once taught you to play that will ease your pain and make you smile.
When this happens, you will start to see baseball differently. No longer will it seem like a child’s game to you, but you will recognize it as the American artform our ancestors have been practicing since the 1750s. And in that moment you will somehow feel a little more connected to your fellow human.
During those hours of happiness, perhaps you will finally understand how the author of this letter once watched the Atlanta Braves win the Fall Classic, and truly regarded this evening as one of the greatest nights of his entire life.
I only wish you could have been there.