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‘Love isn’t about expectation.’ An ode to the 2015 Blue Jays

If baseball is like love, Jays fans learned to believe in it again, even if it meant letting ourselves get hurt. A thank-you note to the Toronto Blue Jays


 

We’ll never see them again.

Price and Martin, Stroman and Buerhle, Estrada and Navarro. Everything changes. Everything swishes and sways in swirling winds of free-agency landscapes, retirements, and time.

The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are gone for good.

But they warmed up something that was too cold for too long.

In 1992 I was 12. In 1993 I was 13. I faxed questions to Tom and Jerry during their brand new fax-machine-sponsored Ask The Experts segment, had finger-staining Toronto Sun posters on my closet door, and played baseball in the park every summer morning. Twenty years later, in the back of my first book, I wrote in the acknowledgments: “Thank you to the 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays for showing a nerdy kid with glasses that dreams can come true.”

That’s what the Blue Jays did for us back then. Capturing my heart and taking it on a ride was my first real love outside of my family. Like all relationships, it was full of complex emotions: anticipation, desire, intimacy. No, I never had sex with Manny Lee. But my mind let my heart live somewhere else for the first time, letting them move me, letting myself be moved.

I really think the Blue Jays winning the World Series back then left my heart open to loving in many ways. I believed in love. It could come true! I had seen it before, so the thick shellac that coats cold hearts never had time to harden.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, when you were a Blue Jays fan, you were part of a new subculture. People in a relationship. No rings on ring fingers or earrings in our right ears. No, we had Tony Fernandez jerseys, Skydome’s “Lets Go Blue Jays” drummer, and Tom and Jerry on the radio on the way to the cottage.

Heraclitis said: “No man ever walks in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.” The person you are now will be different the next time. The team they are now will be different the next time too. Letting love in again is the best we can ask of ourselves. Letting ourselves be hurt, be inspired, be part of something bigger than ourselves.

I never liked the term bandwagon. I wasn’t sitting in the 500 level for 22 years thinking this is the year Orlando Hudson hits the walkoff. Sure, I went to a couple games, but I wasn’t willing to go up and down all those seasons ending in June, July, or August. It wasn’t because of love. It was because the love hurt too much.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman tips his cap to the crowd after being pulled from the game against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/AP/CP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman tips his cap to the crowd after being pulled from the game against the Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning in Game 3 of baseball’s American League Championship Series on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/AP/CP) MANDATORY CREDIT

On Friday, October 23rd, just past midnight, in the final out of the year, I was sure Donaldson would hit the game-leading drive in the top of the ninth. Despite the missed plays or calls earlier, it felt like we had this for sure.

And that’s the growth.

That’s the good thing.

If you thought that too, it means you did it. You let the love in again. You opened your heart again. You let love lead you and look where it led. You always had one eye on the relationship over the years – scanning the box, flipping the channel, listening to Jerry and Alan or Jack or Duane or Joe.

At 12:02am we were one run down and had a man on third with nobody out in the ninth. At 12:04am we had guys on second and third with one out. Top of the order coming up. Hope, belief, love. At 12:09am, it was suddenly all over. In an instant our magical relationship jarringly shifted from experience to … memory.

Gone went midnights under blankets during rain delays and replacing it came colour-faded postcard-streaked blurs of losing your voice chanting M-V-P at the game, high-fiving Jays fans on the Spadina streetcar, and feeling a new energy in the strutting step of our city and country.

Minutes after the game, sweaty Royals manager Ned Yost got on a stage in the infield and said: “Last year we were surprised to be in the World Series. This year … we expected it.”

The crowd went wild at the bravado of those words. They expected it.

Members of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate their series win over the Texas Rangers during game five American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Members of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrate their series win over the Texas Rangers during game five American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 14, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

But love isn’t about expectation.

It’s about the surprise. It’s about the little things. It’s about feeling the small pleasures delight you, opening yourself up to what could be, letting your heart be vulnerable. Pillar scaling the left field wall, Donaldson diving into the fourth row, a rain of hats after Edwin’s three homers. That’s what falling in love feels like, and that’s the best feeling in the world.

Expectation, thinking we’ll get to the World Series in spring training, only leads to two outcomes: satisfaction or disappointment. There’s no room in the middle for hope. There’s no room to fall in love.

So next year, let’s avoid expectation. Let’s hope for hope. Eyeing the box, flipping the channel, listening to Jerry and Joe on the way to cottage. Our hearts are a little more torn up, but the best we can hope for is the vulnerable free-floating joy of letting ourselves fall in love again.

Broken hearts don’t heal so fast, but thanks to the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays, for the wild ride and the memories. We were with you, we believed in us, and you never let us down.

Neil Pasricha is the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Awesome and new children’s book Awesome is Everywhere. He lives in Toronto with his wife and son.


 

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