You wake to find yourself in some ethereal purgatory seemingly designed by Rod Serling. A booming voice good-naturedly snaps you back to life, asking "Where is everybody?!"
The question echoes off the walls of mostly vacant Upper Reserve section 336, the outer reaches of Camden Yards. It's a desolate place, where you can get away with quite a bit, including but not limited to smoking a joint, drinking that bottle of Pike you tucked into your sock before leaving the house, and engaging in some good ol' hanky-panky.
After a bit of investigation, you find the source of the query: a hardy man in hunting fatigues having a bit of fun in the top of the ninth while, below, the Orioles trail the Blue Jays 9 to 4 in the second game of a doubleheader. He's a bit like John Candy in Stripes-heck, maybe he is John Candy. Someone faking their death could easily hide out here for a couple years.
Upper Reserve seating is a distinction reserved for those who either have the spending fervor of Jack Benny or a hankering for some extra $10 custom purple tall boys.
Even with the type of season they've been having, described by many as nothing short of a miracle, being the Orioles on a Monday night in the second game of a doubleheader following Torrey Smith's dramatic performance is the sporting world equivalent of forming a ska-jazz fusion band who dresses like the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and has its inaugural gig opening for Girl Talk: good fucking luck. It's a game against a team who is about as interesting to Baltimoreans as an Inside the Actors Studio interview with Tom Brady.
Though we had Jones, Flaherty, and Davis doling out the long ball to quench the home run lust of all those who just barely made it through the dizzying Bermuda Triangle of Baltimore's rush-hour traffic, the day game was rightly a Johnson affair. Steve Johnson grabbed six strikeouts through five innings, and he allowed no runs and only a handful of hits. He was assisted by Patton, Hunter, and O'Day, who steered through a few white-knuckle counterassaults. Jim Johnson, (the other Johnson) corked the bottle to help put away another much-needed win-and snagged his 48th save to embolden a relatively packed house with only sparse hints of Toronto blue sprinkled among throngs of suburban commuters. O's fans sported a grunge-esque autumn variation of game attire, more akin to 120 Minutes host Lewis Largent circa 1992 than to Brady Anderson.
In this, the third act, every slight shutter rattles the web. A tempest that opens the gates of an Ecto-Containment Unit we call "maybe next year" could be set off if for one second Chris Davis gets lost in the scent of some Paca Street sausage stand, turning an easy out into a 100-foot gash in the hull of the ship-all hands on deck, now shaking with the yearning to touch what has been for so long forbidden, postseason fruit.
To the provincial tyke roaming our cobbled fields and hard gray courts, the O's must seem like the Ravens' deadbeat older brother who keeps promising to take that call-center job and renew his license, but always ends up passed out on the couch, with a brown stream of Skoal juice running down his cheek. Mom and Dad had given up on the seemingly remote dream of seeing him achieve the dignity of, say, a dogged line cook at a moderately successful hipster Tex-Mex joint-tantamount to a .500 winning percentage-let alone the possibility of managing an Outback Steak House-taking a division.
The second game dwindles to its final remains of hope. The O's trail far behind, with one out remaining. A man wearing a black turtleneck in section 334 who looks remarkably like Bob Saget begins a rather odd clapping metronome that's not all that catchy. He keeps it going for a while to no avail, when suddenly the signal is returned across the dimly lit vacant expanse from section 336 by a bundled-up banker-looking fellow who smiles warmly, nodding his head slightly in acknowledgement of the original sender.
I remember an inspirational poster from junior high resource room. It was a couple sitting in a paddle boat, looking up at some glamorous people enjoying their great sailboat. The couple waved happily to the rich folks, as they would to another paddle boater. The poster said something like "Don't be jealous" or "Enjoy what ya got." I think the Van Gogh who conjured that masterpiece would agree, in his or her own pseudo-Zen way, you don't have to own the house to appreciate its majesty. By the time you read this article you will certainly know the fate of our boys. Well, no matter how the tide turns, I think we can all agree it was one hell of a ride, with one hell of a grand view from here in the cheap seats, at the heart of a fairy tale unfolding.