Yes, You Choked; Yes, I’m Still Proud of You

This was the toughest loss I’ve ever had to swallow in baseball; or in sports.

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget this. I’ll never get over it. It will never be easier to accept. It will always sting. It now exists as a spot place-marked forever in my life; an irreversible eternity. Never again in my life will I allow myself to think “hey, we might really have a shot to win the whole damn thing”. Not after this. If this team couldn’t do it, I’ll never be sold again.

The Reds made the kind of history you do not want to make yesterday afternoon in Cincinnati in losing 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants.

Sometimes in loss we learn the most about ourselves.

I have never in my life seen a team scratch, claw, and fight with such life or death desperation as the Reds did after getting down 6-0 yesterday. The image that will forever stick with me yesterday was Ryan Hanigan immediately when Buster Posey connected with his grand slam home run. Don’t watch Latos. Don’t watch the crowd behind him. Don’t look at the hitter or the ball’s flight. Watch Hanigan.

I have never seen a catcher react that way to a ball in play in all my years watching the game. Hanigan turns in immediate pain, anguish, and disgust and swings his arm in angst. He knows when Posey connects that it was the kill shot. The Reds at that moment probably knew they were dead. But like a cowboy in an old Western whose gut-shot, they kept shooting until they drew their last breath.

For instance; when Jay Bruce got down 0-2 in the ninth inning, he decides that even in defeat; he’s going to make the Giants closer earn it.

What ensues after Bruce gets down 0-2 in the last frame of the game and the Reds down to their final two outs of the season, was one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever seen in watching sports my entire life.

Bruce proceeds to battle Sergio Romo for 12 pitches in total as if he’s battling a damn lion or dragon. He stubbornly fouls off pitch after pitch, laying off many off-speed pitches that have long been to Bruce’s liking. As the at-bat wears onward, you realize Bruce is doing more than just trying to come up with a big swing that will result in a 3-run homer. He’s battling for himself, for his teammates, for all of us fans, and for what might have been his manager’s swansong. I don’t know what Bruce was thinking during the course of that at-bat where the Giants continually stayed away from his big time power to right field. I can only think he knew he owed it to everyone who hadn’t lost hope.

Bruce eventually flies out to right field, and the Reds came up short. But I had chills for much of that at-bat. It was a moment based on sheer will and determination. It was what baseball was all about. One man competing against another, knowing his probable fate but refusing to just roll over and die.

Forever etched in our memories is something different. I will never forget the hurt of this series collapse, but I’ll always know that the team I rooted the hardest for and held the closest to my heart fought like Hell for a different outcome, even when it would have been easiest to quit.

Like often the man who spends his days writing about them and living and dying with them, they just came up tragically short.

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