I’m writing this in October, because the feelings, the frustrations over base-running miscues and late-inning disappointments, are fresh.
Bluntly? The Atlanta Braves broke my heart again. It’s a theme. All Braves fans know it. When good things are happening, some sort of disappointment is bound to follow.
The Braves reached the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2001. They were playing for their first World Series berth since we were all worrying about Y2K.
We have a long, complicated relationship with the Braves, those of us who pull for them. It’s more than just a game. It’s cultural, and in many cases familial. I grew up on Braves’ games on TBS. It was a nightly event, to hurry through dinner in time for first pitch at 6:05 p.m. I remember eating bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with M&Ms during the games, my tradition. I spoke about games with my grandmother over the phone. In Little League, teammates battled over who wore Chipper Jones’s No. 10, and we all pulled our socks to our knees like he did. You could often measure how we spent our summer nights based on how the Braves were playing.
The Braves won the World Series in ‘95, and I remember little about it because they clinched it 15 days before my eighth birthday. We’ve been rooting for another championship ever since.
We were so, so close in 2020. Atlanta beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 1 and 8-7 in Game 2. The Dodgers wrecked the Braves 15-3 in Game 3, but Atlanta bounced back to win Game 4 by a final score of 10-2. That left Atlanta one win from the World Series. The Braves needed to win one game out of three to move on. They lost 7-3 in Game 5 and 3-1 in Game 6. They lost the decisive Game 7 by a 4-3 final. They just needed one win, and they let three straight games slip away. Disappointing is an understatement. We Braves fans have stuck with this franchise through a lot of bad years and heart-wrenching losses in the good years.
In my disappointment after Game 7 went final, I sat in our dining room and just sort of reflected. They were so close. A series loss like that is a hard pill to swallow. Will they make it back in 2021? Will it be another 19 years before they reach the NLCS? Will it be another 21 years before they play in the World Series?
But in my mourning of a baseball season, my wife placed our baby monitor in front of me, which showed our then-nine-month-old boy sleeping soundly. She told me that whenever the Braves do reach and win the World Series again, he will be watching with me, likely old enough to understand what’s happening.
That disappointment quickly faded into hope for the future. Yeah, take your time, Braves. I can wait a few years.
Gary Lloyd is the author of six books and is a contributing writer to the Cahaba Sun.