Fifteen years. 180 months. 5475 days. 131,400 hours. 7,884,000 minutes. More seconds than my children, or most of the rest of us for that matter, can truly fathom. The amount of time it takes to have three high school reunions, or raise a child to nearly driving age. It’s been a long damned time since the Cincinnati Reds earned a Major League Baseball playoff berth.
Unless you’re an avid reader of Hermit Weekly or Better Caves and Rock Gardens, chances are pretty good that you already know what I’m going to say next, but it’s fun to repeat anyway, so I will. At 10:02 PM last night the Reds clinched the 2010 National League Central Division title with a ninth inning game-ending home run. The city erupted in a celebration fifteen years in the making, and more than a decade of pent-up baseball frustration was rinsed away in a shower of bubbly.
In the immortal words of Monte Python, “and there was much rejoicing.”
The last time the Reds were playing for that National League Pennant, it was 1995. I was a wet-behind-the-ears software engineer just out of college. I had my first real job that included health insurance and a 401(k), and I’d been living in my first apartment for roughly six months. I wasn’t smart enough yet to know how much I didn’t know, but I was pretty damned sure of exactly what I did know. My largely-unfounded cockiness could not have been measured with technology available at the time, but I’m guessing it was worth at least 650 metric punk units*.
I honestly don’t remember much about that particular summer of baseball. I do recall that it was just after the strike, and I was too good and self-important to debase myself by worshipping at the altar of a bunch of greedy millionaires who just finished fighting over which group got to have the biggest pile of cash in which to bathe. That more youthful version of Puddin certainly did not lack for self-righteousness. At any rate, though, it wasn’t the strike that kept me from showing interest, it was the newness of suddenly having my own life to lead combined with the foolhardy assumption that the Reds would always be good enough to compete.
In 1995, we were but just five short years removed from a World Series victory, and even when not in the playoffs in the years between, the local club was typically in contention. So I paid little attention that year, and they eventually lost to the Braves in the National League Championship Series. I was busy, doing…something. Important. I actually do remember that I was playing a game of pool in a bar when they lost the last game of that series. At the time, thought to myself, well, maybe next year.
And just like that, maybe next year comes and goes 15 times. Eventually, a lifetime later, there comes a night in September when you see a kid name Bruce (who was barely out of tee-ball the last time the Reds were really playing for something) crush a no-doubter to center field and clinch the Central Division title.
Fifteen long years ago, when I was just a snot-nose college grad, I took for granted that there would always be a relevant baseball team around here; I could pay attention when I had the time. Somewhere in the course of those fifteen long years, though, I got old enough to realize that such moments in life arrive like a leaf on the wind, and disappear just as quickly. They must be savored as they can.
There’s a lesson here that applies to more than just baseball. Life is full of rushed daily schedules and missed opportunities, taken for granted.
So appreciate those wonderful fleeting moments when you can. Fifteen years, or worse, is a long time to wait for another.
*by decree, levels of excessively arrogant whipersnappery will henceforth be measure in “punks”