50 Words for Disappointment

What’s worse? Rooting for a team that never contends or for a team that contends all year, then fades in the last weeks of the season?

The answer, of course, is whichever isn’t happening to your team. If the Orioles had stunk all year, I’d pine to see them with a .500 record. But since they’ve played pretty well, leading the division for much of the season and only a game or two off the division lead until this week, the disappointment feels worse.

Here’s my theory of Orioles baseball: you’re going to be disappointed.

Disappointment is something can’t be quantified. No one can ever say “My disappointment meter is in the red.” Or “I have 35 pounds of disappointment today.” There are degrees of disappointment–ranging from “dammit” to “oh my god I simply can’t go on.” But there aren’t words for it, beyond that.

If Eskimos have 50 words for snow, Orioles fans should have 50 words for disappointment.

Because one way or another, that’s where you’ll end up. Some years it’s a six-month low hum of near-daily disappointment. Other years, it’s the punch-in-the-gut of a blown four-game series — at home — against Boston.

That’s where we are now. The Red Sox completed a four-game sweep at Camden Yards Thursday night, owning the O’s from the first pitch of Monday’s game until the last out of Thursday’s. I have that tightness in my throat, that feeling that combines helplessness and fury. When babies have this feeling, they throw tantrums. I’m thisclose to kicking a garbage can or saying something wildly inappropriate about the whole city of Boston.

I hate Boston. I mean, I like the city. I hate the Red Sox. Man, do I hate the Red Sox. Before last night’s game, the Orioles did an awkward tribute to Boston slugger David Ortiz, who’s retiring at the end of the year. Orioles broadcaster Jim Hunter, himself the king of awkward, mentioned during the tribute that ex-Oriole Brian Matusz had a weird stranglehold on Ortiz, who couldn’t hit the otherwise hittable lefty. “Do you remember Matusz?” asked Hunter. Ortiz kind of glared and nodded. Then the O’s presented Ortiz with the dugout phone that he smashed a few years ago.

I thought they should’ve lit a bag of shit on fire outside his hotel room, but that’s just me.

It’s not rational, I realize. It’s visceral. A win on Thursday would have swung Boston’s division lead down to five games. (I know … big deal, right?) Instead, all the big-slugging Orioles could muster was a three-run homer by a guy who spent most of this season at Norfolk. Nothing from Trumbo, Davis, Jones, Wieters, Machado, Schoop. Even the ace Chris Tillman got yanked in the second inning. An all-around mess of a ballgame.

The O’s look tired and flat. The pitchers seem to get behind on everyone. And it seems like the sluggers come to the plate with an 0-2 count.

Sure, there’s more baseball left and anything can happen. But will it? Because it feels like the disappointment is here to stay.

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