On the final day of January this year, I drove Young Master Weisman to a rehearsal for a cello performance in Calabasas. To bide the hours until he was ready to leave, I went to see the movie 1917 at a nearby theater. Then I drove to the Sagebrush Cantina, the modern-day saloon where I celebrated by 21st birthday on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend in 1988. Now, at age 52, I sat at the bar by myself, ordered one beer and watched the pregame ceremony at the first Laker game at Staples Center following the death of Kobe Bryant. And as I watched, I started to cry.
I was crying for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and I was crying for their family, and I was crying for their fellow victims and their families. And I was crying for so much more. I was crying, as I hinted the day of their deaths, because even before the fatal helicopter crash that swept away nine lives, my life as I knew it felt more fragile at that moment than at any moment I could remember.
Wiping away the tears, I typed a tweet into my cellphone that was half confession, half prayer.
I am at the Sagebrush Cantina, bidding good riddance to January 2020, a kidney stone of a month. I wish all of us love, strength, perseverance and better times ahead.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) February 1, 2020
I’m still wishing.
The year has not gotten any easier. I have worried about the health and well-being of multiple members of my extended family. A pandemic altered the world in a way I could only have imagined the earthquake to end all earthquakes would. Our country’s internal corrosion was exposed in ways as horrifically revealing as they were sadly confirming. I hold my nationality dear to my heart, and yet I find it impossible to be proud of what we are today. We can do better. We must do better.
Most of all, my internal struggles have become more acute. If you’re a longtime reader, you might have some familiarity with them, all around the theme of not being the man I want to be, in my professional life as well as my personal life. As much as ever, I’m determined to get to the bottom of it, but in some ways the challenge has never seemed more intimidating.
Against this backdrop, there was a baseball season. It was a season that I went on record saying was unnecessary, that might even be counter-productive. But for all its uncertainties and oddities, the season itself has been a success, particularly if you’re a Dodger fan. The Dodgers dominated. They roared. In their 60-game dash, they reached the finish line with a higher winning percentage in their baseball games than any major-league team since 1954. Higher than any National League team since 1909. Higher than the 1927 New York Yankees.
The Dodgers (43-17) will play the Brewers (29-31) in the opening round of the MLB playoffs.
If the Brewers sweep the entire postseason and win the World Series, they still won't have won as many games as the Dodgers.
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) September 27, 2020
So, you know what’s next.
Having gone 31 years and 11 months since their last World Series title, including 14 postseason appearances and 12 division titles — eight of those in the past eight seasons — there is nothing else for this franchise to accomplish except win its seventh World Series. Not only have the Dodgers won 41 more regular-season games than any other franchise since 2013, their 32 playoff wins are also the most in baseball. They just don’t have the big one.
In this postseason, which features a best-of-three opening round that’s a cliff-hanger even for a historically great team, the big one will demand more October victories than ever before. And yet, 27 hours after the Dodgers begin their quest, it could be over.
Each year, I have felt the pain that so many of you feel when the Dodgers fall short. Last year, the pressure truly got to me in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, when not only was it devastating to see them lose, but I couldn’t even enjoy it when they were winning.
During tonight’s game, even before the Dodgers lost their 3-0 lead and ultimately their season, I started to question where my journey had taken me. I’ve suffered through more painful defeats as a fan, more than I care to recall here. But from the moment Walker Buelher walked Stephen Strasburg in the top of the third inning, my tension devolved into relentless misery, despite Los Angeles being ahead. In my life, I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much of a game that the Dodgers were winning so unhappy. …
Baseball is supposed to be fun. That doesn’t mean it can’t hurt. But if you’re not enjoying the happy parts, what’s the point?
I refuse to go any further in my life worrying about whether the Dodgers will win the World Series or not. I will always root for them, but I don’t ever want to have tonight’s experience again. I want baseball to be my Shangri-La, not my prison.
I have had 51 weeks to think about that pledge. In those 51 weeks, I have been tested by many different things … but not by baseball. Now, here we are.
In a small way, this baseball season has been a gift. I’m determined to keep it that way. I am going to enjoy the Dodgers’ pursuit of their seventh World Series title as much as I can. Heaven willing, I’m going to savor it as far as it will take me. I am not going to be a fan in fear.
If the Dodgers win the World Series, I am going to celebrate like it was 1981 and 1988 combined. If they don’t, I am going to do my absolute damnedest to give thanks for the ride. If I can do that, then maybe I’ll have learned something that I can apply to this kidney stone of a year. Something that I can apply to a life that, for all its trials and all my flaws, I have so much for which to be grateful.