October 20, 2013

Pause for the pastime

Baseball is mostly an outdoor game that stretches over three seasons of a year. A baseball season’s length and the pace of the game itself are part of its charm for me and millions–perhaps billions--of other fans. However, I was jolted out of my lingering summer complacency last night when the all-powerful Yomiuri Giants defeated the Hiroshima Carp to complete their sweep of the inaptly named Central League Climax Series of Japanese professional baseball. This means the Giants, a team whose name alone conjures up irrational animal hatred in me, will advance to the Japan Series (the country’s equivalent to the World Series).

I have had a memorable summer and early fall, with a calendar that has kept me bobbing and weaving between fun-filled family activity and work commitments, with scarce time or energy for anything else, let alone stories from the Rising Family. But the Hiroshima Carp’s fairy tale narrative since September and the abrupt return to reality due to yesterday’s season-ending loss compelled me to jot down a few thoughts.

Third-place Hiroshima surprised the Hanshin Tigers with a sweep in the first round of the playoff CL Climax Series even though the Tigers posted a better record over the course of the season. (I caught a Carp-Tigers game with my good friend SDM in August while in Hiroshima during our summer vacation.) 

Hiroshima’s scrappy underdog narrative was riveting, particularly for me, an unrepentant Carp fan since my arrival in Japan; my allegiance continues to this day. Their surge in September to claim the team’s first playoff berth since 1991 was the come-from-behind storyline that captures the heart. Reality, of course, usually overwhelms mythic hopes and dreams, but in my mind, it is the possibility alone that keeps the child in us alive—and watching the game.

Last note. The frenetic summer schedule took me to various places over the last few months. I will soon offer a few tales about that. This travel enabled me to see the Carp versus the Hanshin Tigers, and the Red Sox versus Dodgers (both low-scoring games), so I caught of glimpse of the some of the best teams in the game of baseball on both sides of the Pacific ocean this year. Lucky me. Now, the yin-yang emotions of triumph of winning and the anguish of defeat remind me that soon the game will leave me to face the winter alone.

The author, proudly sporting Carp T-shirt in front of the Dodger bullpen.
Yes, we were allowed on the field! For a fireworks show after the game!
Postscript: just saw that the Red Sox are going to Series again, against the Cardinals. Go Sox.