I’m sitting in a tiny Irish pub in Clairemont called the Blarney Stone watching the first game of the NBA Finals. A small group of musicians have gathered in front of my table for their weekly Irish Jam Session. This is where they pull out (mostly) traditional Irish instruments and play songs – or ‘jam’. There are no groupies for this band, and there are almost no fans. In fact, about 45 minutes into it you’re pretty much ready for it to be over. It’s not like it’s distracting or even terrible. Some of these people are quite good, but playing to a crowd that is (mostly) ambivalent about what’s happening causes everyone to feel awkward. They play because they love to do it. They don’t get paid, no one tips them and they say very few actual words to each other.
The juxtaposition of live music being played for fun in front of a (small) crowd, while that same crowd is watching a televised sport being played for money is mind numbing. We’re all choosing to ignore our reality to focus on a game we hope will mean something to us personally, although it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t.
This is how I currently feel as a Padres fan.
I’m currently ignoring my own reality by refusing to watch Padres games or spend money as a patron of PETCO. I watch the Thunder and the Heat and the Kings in hopes of filling that void by stealing someone else’s reality thousands of miles away so I can forget my own.
This life breeds alcoholism.
I do have a Coors Light next to me, but I can’t imagine I’d ever walk into an AA meeting bemoaning the evils of frost-brewed beer from the Rockies. Never say never.
We spend our time on this website and dozens of others around town writing and debating about the Padres’ victories and defeats. We hope for the best and try to expose the worst. We do it because we love this sport and this team, but why does doing it this season, above all others, feel so futile? Is it because the team is so terrible? No, that’s nothing new; as a lifelong Padres fan I’ve bared witness to more losses than wins. Maybe it’s because once you pass Quentin or get over Venable possibly reaching his potential five years too late, there is absolutely nothing to get excited about on this team? That’s definitely part of it, but Yonder Alonso and Luebke’s future get me feeling a little better, so I can’t really say, “That’s the reason!” Maybe it’s that we’ve already reached eleven different starters this season, or that our starting catcher is hitting .174, or maybe the fact that we don’t have an actual owner?
The Irish pub version of the Grateful Dead just finished an eight-minute long rendition of “Finnegan’s Wake”, and the Thunder have evened things up at the end of the third.
I’m on Coors Light number two and shaved off a shot of Powers. Things are looking up for everybody.
It seems to be that all my frustration and apathy comes down to one simple truth: this season is what Nada Surf refers to as “the blankest year”. Yes, I just made a Nada Surf reference and no I won’t explain it for those who don’t understand it. Google it and then be disappointed.
The fans are upset and searching for any reason to care. The front office is all over the place making odd decisions like signing Jason Marquis, and there’s no point in getting riled up about Bud Black or Josh Byrnes because there’s a great chance that all of them will be gone once new ownership takes over. Nothing that happens on the field this season will matter whatsoever next season, and that my fellow fans is a hard thing to swallow. This year might as well be erased.
All the things we’re getting upset about or happy about or hopeful about is completely useless, and what goes deeper and becomes even more depressing is that in the back of our heads we know this is true; that cold one in our hands makes it easier to deal with.
So, what’s the point of me writing another word or you reading another word on this website or any other this season?
Good question, but I have a great answer: We have to. It’s in us. We’ve made it a part of our lives, and for some of us it’s been handed down through generations like high blood pressure or male pattern baldness. Like the Irish jam band in front of me (who are currently massacring “Galway Bay”), we don’t do what we’re doing because of money or glory – we won’t ever get any of that. We do it for fun, for sport; we do it because it’s simultaneously our reality and our escape from it.
So, our season is a wash and every single person knows it. However, there’s always next season, and that means there’s always another chance for redemption and for progress. The theory of ‘what if’ fills our hearts and minds and we’ve trained ourselves to hold on to that idea like hidden treasure.
The Thunder have defeated the Heat and the Irish Jam band has gotten into their first “fight” of the evening. Although it’s similar to watching two librarians argue over the Dewey Decimal System, it’s pretty entertaining. The new fiddle player is a beat behind and it’s fairly obvious to all of us, even those who have no idea what a fiddle is.
This Padres season is just like every Irish folk song: It’s sad, it’s a little too long, no one really ever knows all the words and it makes you want to drink. So, let’s raise our glasses and ignore our own reality. Now, look down your empty glass and at the bottom you’ll see next season. Slainte.
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