Game 3 of the 2018 World Series was a reminder of why baseball is America’s greatest sport, despite being displaced culturally by the violence and jingoism of the NFL.
The game featured heroic performances, especially by the man charged with a loss, Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.
Oft-injured and cast off by the very Los Angeles Dodgers franchise he battled on a luminous California night, Eovaldi put in a performance for the ages and still lost. He was crestfallen after giving up the game-winning home run to Dodgers infielder Max Muncy in the 18th inning of the longest game in World Series history. Muncy’s opposite-field homer sealed 3-2 victory and gave his team some life in the series, led by Boston 2-1 going into Saturday night.
But Eovaldi’s teammates all rushed to his side in reverence for what he did. It got me thinking about values we used to hold dear in our country: Selfless honor. Determination. Quiet grit.
We’ve gotten away from that in our 24-hour news cycle of endless hyperbole. This game reminded us that those virtues are not dead. This seven-hour, 20-minute game flew in the face of our ADD sensibilities.
It was a rebuke of frenetic entertainment flourishes that lard up other sports. The drama was in the anticipation. You had to pay attention to the game. The results and the tactical decisions made by both teams were complex and not simplistic and not dumbed down the way so many aspects of life are today.
There were winners and losers, but in this game, the winners we’re fortunate and the losers walked away with honor.
Isn’t life that way? Our everyday lives are not about achieving “greatness.” Our lives are shaped by luck that goes with us or against us in ways we can’t control. And what matters in life isn’t crowing when we win but growing even more determined when we lose.
The game had comic relief: Red Sox third basemen Eduardo Nunez crashed into walls, tripped over the mound and over himself while sprawling, falling and landing hard on that thin frame that is his livelihood. People made sport of Nunez – as I did, too – but Nunez always got up and was always game for the next fall.
The game had a villain in Dodgers infielder Manny Machado, who is as gifted as anyone in baseball but doesn’t always run hard and channels his determination negatively, to his own detriment.
Dodgers outfielder Kike Hernandez is struggling so badly at the plate, it’s painful to watch. Los Angeles starter Walker Buehler pitched as few have in the World Series and wound up a footnote.
Two men were humbled.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen couldn’t hold a thin lead. And Red Sox infielder Ian Kinsler had the win in his hands but couldn’t find his footing. His errant throw tied the game and set the stage for his team’s eventual loss.
Was he a loser? No. He was a competitor. It just didn’t go his way.
The game was bigger than the individuals, just as our nation used to be bigger than our individual grievances.
The game was about more than ratings or merchandise sold. It was about refusing to give up. It was about succeeding even though you failed. It was about the joy of winning. It was about walking tall even though you lost.
President Donald Trump wouldn’t get the meaning of this game if he lived to be 150. Neither would all the social media snipers who frame baseball in other sports by commentaries laced with malice. On one night, baseball became America’s pastime again.
We passed an entire evening – well past 3 a.m. on the East Coast – hanging on every play. I felt the presence of my deceased dad and remembered all the times he and I saw watched together at the ballpark. He would loved this game. I loved this game. We love this game, even though we sometimes forget why.