I was talking to an old friend of mine the other day. He just returned from being stationed overseas for a few months. After exchanging all the standard greetings and pleasantries, he asked me how it felt, but I didn't know what he was talking about. "The whole World Series thing," he said. "Oh, right," I replied. "It was pretty awesome. You should've been here."
We continued talking about it for a good twenty minutes. He hadn't been able to watch the playoffs - he had to read about them online - so he just asked me question after question in an effort to fill in all the blanks. Which moments were the most tense? Where did I watch? With whom did I watch? Who played the best? Who won the MVP? How did I respond? What did it feel like afterwards? I replied to each of his questions at great length, wearing a distant but vaguely contented expression on my face. It didn't occur to me until later that night that in all of my answers I used the past tense.
People love to tell you - about anything from jobs to relationships - that you don't know what you have until it's gone. That only by experiencing the sorrow of loss do you begin to appreciate what you had in your possession. Me, I knew what I had. When the Mariners won, I knew exactly what I had. I didn't have to suffer to gain true insight; I had already suffered. I had already suffered before, in my 17 prior years of fandom. All of that pain, all of that disappointment and heartbreak and frustration and anger - those emotions had taught me to cherish any and all little victories long before the Mariners sealed the big one, so when it finally happened, while the feeling itself was unfamiliar, its meaning and significance were abundantly clear. I knew with absolute certainty that, as a fan of several teams who had never before reached the summit, that was the happiest I had ever been.
That's why I tried my hardest to prolong the feeling for as long as I could. I didn't want it to go away, because I knew that I'd never be able to get it back. I knew that it would never again be the same. So I took measures towards sustainability. I got into the habit of rewatching parts of the clinching game whenever I had a free ten minutes. I'd sit on my bed, stare at my altar of collectibles, and daydream for half an hour at a time. I wore a jersey every day for weeks. I'd do anything and everything in my power just to be able to feel that autonomic smile on my lips and warm tingling sensation in my fingers. That was the feeling the Mariners had given me. That was the feeling of ultimate triumph.
Over time, though, the feeling has become increasingly fleeting and more difficult to achieve. My brain just doesn't respond the way that it did to the same input in the immediate aftermath, and I find that, when I get the urge, it takes longer to work myself into a euphoric fervor, if I can get there at all. I had one friend tell me that now I know what it's like to be addicted to heroin. It's not the perfect analogy, since I don't have trouble sleeping or get the shakes if I go a day or two without getting a little high, but in terms of developing a tolerance and a need for greater stimulation, it's spot on the mark.
That said, another big difference is that, where an addict can simply up his dosage in order to achieve a certain feeling, it doesn't work the same for celebrating championships. A drug is a drug. Cocaine, weed, heroin, whatever - whether it be your first use or your thousandth, the drug itself always has the same chemical structure. What changes isn't the drug, but rather how much of it you need. With championships, though, there's nothing like the feeling of winning, and no matter how many times you watch highlights of the game or dream about the final play, after a while the feeling isn't the same. Winning on replay just doesn't measure up to winning live, and once that feeling is gone, it's gone for good. Or at least until your next championship, although I suspect that the first one's always the best. As the memory and corresponding feelings of a championship fade, no amount of replays and daydreams can ever bring them back the way they were when you first got to have them.
I try to force it sometimes. Every so often I'll send a text to Matthew that says "MARINERS!" and he'll respond with a text that says "MARINERS!" and we'll both laugh and smile at the memory of it all. I also try to use our Series win as a conversational trump card whenever I can. "The A's are looking pretty good for the next few years." "Yeah, but when's the last time they won the World Series?" It's the same childish go-nowhere tactic you always hate until you get to use it yourself, at which point you want to use it as an answer to everything. But all the little things like this I do every day - they're reminders, and only reminders. They don't bring the initial feeling of victory back. They just remind me that i got to feel that feeling once. It's fun, and sad, and everything in between.
I don't know where I go from here. The feeling that I had that day and for several days after it is just about gone. Bits and pieces of original emotion remain inside me somewhere - watching that Zambrano fastball whiz by inches from Beltre's head still sprinkles my monitor with four-letter spit - but by and large, they're locked up and irretrievable, like memories of spelling tests or your third grade crush. I guess at this point it's about experiencing a different kind of new feeling: that of rooting for a team to win after it's already won. I don't know what that one's like, and now I get to find out, which is something. I just hope it feels similar to rooting for this team before, because I grew quite fond of that feeling, and all of the things that came with it, and I don't want it to be gone forever. I've had that feeling for most of my life. I've loved that feeling for most of my life. And I've no desire to change what wasn't broken.