It's just a game. But I still hurt.
October 10. 10/10. That sounds like a date filled with promise, doesn’t it? It’s clean and round and associated with a perfect score. But, as a Braves fan, I have bad memories of October 10, and those are extra poignant today.
The year was 2010. I was supposed to be getting outpatient sinus surgery (my third) on October 11. However, a week before surgery, October 4, I got a phone call from the doctor informing me that I’d cultured a new, difficult-to-treat bug. For those who aren’t very cystic fibrosis savvy, this meant that there was a new type of infection in my lungs: one that I’d heard about – and not in a good way. The doctor now wanted me admitted to the hospital several days prior to surgery to get a handle on this infection. There was a problem, though; I had tickets to see the Braves vs. Giants in the NLDS playoffs on 10/10/10 – what promised to be a lucky day.
I reached out to the surgeon’s office to see if there was any possible way to reschedule surgery. I’m looking at the desperate email now: To be completely honest, I am a die-hard Braves fan and have tickets to the playoffs on Sunday, and I won't miss that game for anything. The surgeon agreed to move the surgery to Thursday so I could go to the game on Sunday, then check myself into the hospital first thing Monday.
The feeling in the stadium was electric. I remember being in the upper deck along the third base line, but I felt like I was in the front row. The Braves quickly fell behind 0-1 in the second inning after an error by a player-who-shall-remain-nameless. (He’d committed an error in the first inning as well, but anyway.)
Despite a pitchers’ duel of a game, the crowd stayed alive, filled with hope. Finally, our excitement was fulfilled in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Braves took a 2-1 lead with only three outs to get. After two outs in the top of the ninth, we were going crazy. One out remained! Then, in an unexpected turn of events, the Giants scored a run, tying it up 2-2.
‘It’s okay. We’re batting last,’ the Braves fans thought. It’s never okay. What should have been a routine groundout to end the game resulted in the player-who-shall-remain-nameless committing his third error of the game. When I say “error,” I mean the ball managed to go between his legs like something you'd see on a tee-ball field. The Giants scored another run, and the Braves failed to deliver in the bottom of the ninth, losing 2-3. (FYI: I have forgiven the player-who-shall-remain-nameless, hence not naming him in case others have forgotten. Too many other atrocious things have happened since.)
On the way home, we made jokes to keep from crying. It’s just a game. Though the Giants now only needed a single win to take the series, we still had a smidge of optimism. See my smidge of hope, watching from the hospital the next night? We lost. It’s just a game. But I still hurt.
I was at the Wild Card game in 2012, too, for the infamous infield fly rule call. It’s not even worth discussing. It’s just a game. But I still hurt.
Fast-forward to The SuperBowl. I don’t need to give further details. We all know how that storyline unfolded and continues to haunt us. The morning after, I had a doctor’s appointment at the CF clinic. I remember how hard it was for me to get out of bed, hoping it was all just a bad dream. It’s just a game. However, I got up, dreadfully left the house, and couldn’t bear to expose myself to any news or social media until I was ready.
As I was leaving the doctor, I got in the elevator to the parking deck. A lady got on with me, and I politely asked her what floor she was parked on since I’d apparently deemed myself the elevator attendant. She said, “I don’t know. My mother just died.” Surprised and saddened, I told her I was sorry to hear that. “I’ve heard of people being in shock. I think that’s what’s happening,” she said, emotionless. As we parted ways, I told her I’d be thinking about her. That’s what we call a dose of perspective. The loss suddenly felt meaningless. It’s just a game. But I still hurt.
After Ramón’s cancer diagnosis in early May of this year, we made a home for ourselves in the hospital. Without much to do, aside from look at the menu to make sure it was still exactly the same as it was a few hours ago, we started looking forward to first pitch. The Braves were getting hot, and the excitement helped break up the monotony of the hospitalization.
On May 26, we were watching the Braves at Cardinals on ESPN – the Sunday night game. The Braves were losing 0-3 going into the ninth inning. We’d started doing a bit of channel surfing, but we turned back right as the Braves came up to bat in the top of the ninth. As the Braves miraculously scored three runs to tie the game, I began hearing activity in the hallway.
Over the hospital intercom, I heard them announce Code Blue, then listened as location details were provided. Our building was named. Our floor was named. Then the room number next to ours was named. The Cardinals failed to score any runs in the bottom of the ninth, but I found myself completely zoned out as I listened to the chaos unfolding in our neighbor’s room.
In the tenth inning, the Braves scored and went on to victory. However, as this come-from-behind win was solidified, I heard the commotion next door slowly fade. Shortly after, I went out into the hallway to use the restroom. Our neighbor’s room was empty – no bed or anything. ‘She’s been moved to ICU,’ I thought. Then I saw the faces of the nursing staff and realized I was wrong.
“I just saw her warming up soup yesterday,” I told Ramón. “Today, in the hallway, someone asked how she was doing, and she shook her head,” he responded. We never saw her again, but I found her obituary online. As the Braves triumphed over the Cardinals, our neighbor had been defeated by cancer. The win felt meaningless. It’s just a game. But I still hurt.
The last week of playoff baseball has been exciting – stressful, but exciting. It distracted us from today’s bone marrow biopsy, and we were hopeful that it would hold our attention as we wait (possibly weeks) for and receive results. It turned out differently than we’d wanted, but this season helped us through one of our more difficult seasons in life.
While it’s just a game, it sometimes feels like more than that. Sports give us cause to cheer when life itself doesn’t feel victorious. It’s understandable to feel down and out, but it’s also okay to be grateful for the happiness along the way. I know the scale will tip back; it always does. But today I still hurt.