Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Missing Game 7

I was mentioning yesterday how that other World Series -- of baseball, not poker -- had emerged for me as one of several distractions from ESPN’s coverage of this year’s WSOP Main Event. Tonight the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants play a winner-take-all Game 7, something that comes along rarely enough that even a long-lapsed baseball fan like me will be forced to take a look.

I’ve written here before about how devoted I was to baseball as a youngster. It was easily my favorite sport both to play and watch up through my middle teens, at least, although by the time I was a senior in high school my devotion to the game had begun to waver. In fact, it was that fall I can pinpoint a particular day when baseball suddenly became less important to me.

During the Royals’ playoff run this year many have been pointing back to the last time Kansas City made the playoffs way back in 1985, when, coincidentally, they won the championship in a World Series that also went seven games. Those references reminded me of that Game 7, not because of what happened during the game, but because I didn’t see it at all.

The game was on a Sunday (I remember). It was my senior year, a time when I’d already started looking at colleges. I can’t remember if I’d sent any applications by late October or not, but I probably had. I made decent grades in high school, good enough to put me in the running for some scholarships, including one for the school I wanted to attend, UNC-Chapel Hill.

The specifics escape me, but for this particular scholarship there was some sort of get-together I could not avoid that was scheduled for that Sunday evening. I’d submitted some written materials, including an essay showing whether or not I knew how to put sentences and paragraphs together. Then on this day there was a personal interview with a committee, followed by a dinner for all of the applicants.

It was a novel experience for me. The only thing I remember about the interview was that the person leading the five-person committee was blind. He smiled a lot, though, and had a friendly tone that helped keep everything from becoming too intimidating. And the only thing I remember about the dinner afterwards was commiserating with some of the guys from other schools about how we were missing Game 7.

I suppose I could have gotten out of it, but at the time it seemed like one of those things I just had to do. Looking back, it’s tempting to read my decision as one of those fork-in-the-road moments where I chose not to watch a baseball game as my younger self would have done, but instead did the “mature” forward-looking thing with an eye toward my future. That surely exaggerates the moment, though, charging it with more meaning than it really had.

I also remember how missing the game turned out to be much less of a big deal than it seemed at the time. Maybe it was because the game was -- much like last night’s Royals win -- a laugher, with Kansas City winning 11-0. Or maybe it was because lots of other interests had already begun to crowd into a boy’s still-forming mind, pushing baseball over into what would become a mostly-neglected corner.

I didn’t get the scholarship, although I did end up going to UNC-Chapel Hill, and that led to all sorts of other good things for me (not the least of which being meeting Vera during our first week on campus). The next fall I was a college freshman, way too distracted to pay much attention to another great World Series between the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox that would go seven games as well.

I’d look in on the World Series occasionally thereafter, and I became somewhat invested in the Atlanta Braves (my team as a kid) as they finally started winning and playing some exciting playoff games in the 1990s -- among them a heartbreaker of a Game 7 in 1991 which I did watch.

But I’d never again be as big a baseball fan as I had been prior to October 27, 1985, the day I didn’t watch Game 7.

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