Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Streak - 49

As the streak continued, the team adopted an unspoken variation of the usual post-loss protocol. Under normal circumstances – that is, if you've been winning some and losing some – a loss sets in motion predictable stages of cathartic behavior: some generalized anger, a modicum of manifest self-reproach by any goat or goats, some brotherly reassurances from the others, and – after a suitable period has elapsed – a fatalistic joke or two, signaling that the loss is dead and buried, forget about the loss. On a winning team, especially, it's considered good form to react to a loss with surprise. I can't believe we lost. As though the sun refused to rise one morning. How could that happen?

The Yankees had grown accustomed to losing. But professional sports etiquette demanded that they resist adapting to this condition. They could not seem withdrawn, indifferent or numb inside, though it took some effort not to. Of course, no one pretended to be surprised. That charade had long since lost its charm. Instead, they came to resemble a family mourning the well-anticipated death of a grandparent. There was respectful silence. There was not too much to say. There were whispered banalities, everyone careful not to betray impatience or distraction. Everyone knew they were supposed to be sad, but were they really? He'd led a good life. A quick death. What more could you ask? Everybody dies.

The border between this period of enforced solemnity and the resumption of normal life and demeanor was ill-defined – perhaps this served as further punishment, self-imposed or otherwise. The boys couldn't snap out of it with a laugh. Instead they rose slowly, separately, through pockets of depression and regret, and emerged alone, ready now to read a magazine, to watch TV. To look each other in the eye.

On this night the darkness lifted almost imperceptibly at about a quarter to midnight, as the team bus crossed the George Washington Bridge on the way to Newark Airport. Some guys stopped their iPods and started talking. Not about much. Food. Girls. But it was something.

An hour later, the team dispersed through Terminal C as their charter plane was readied. Many sat in the private lounge, happy to stay clear of the leering masses. Others were ransacking the free bar in the Continental Presidents Club. Kyle, Evan and Sug took a table in a corner of Gallagher's steak house and hid behind their drinks. The Rolling Stones were playing.

When I'm ridin' round the world
And I'm doin' this and I'm signing that
And I'm tryin' to make some girl
Who tells me baby better come back later next week
'Cause you see I'm on a losing streak

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