Game 7 is not necessary. It’s over.
The Toronto Blue Jays are officially eliminated from the 2015 MLB postseason. It wasn’t supposed to end this way, but sports can’t provide every team with a happy ending.
I look up at the television right now and see Blue Jay players struggling to push words out of their mouth and into a microphone. I also see the Kansas City Royals celebrating.
Did I mention this hurts?
Though I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach, I am not mad. I can’t be mad. This is more than I could have ever imagined way back in March when the Blue Jays marketing campaign urged us to “#ComeTogether”, despite the fact that everything around the team was falling apart.
Marcus Stroman was supposed to be the starting pitcher on Opening Day. He wasn’t. He tore his ACL.
Michael Saunders was supposed to be the left fielder on Opening Day. He wasn’t. He stepped on a sprinkler head and suffered a knee injury that would rob him of all but nine games.
The Blue Jays were stumbling out of the gate – no pun intended – before the gate even opened.
Excuses were there, but never used. This team hung in there, while the fan base wasn’t completely sure that coming together was worth their time.
And then the trade deadline arrived and, so too, did reinforcements. A new shortstop. A new left fielder. Two new relievers. And, oh yeah, a shiny new ace of the rotation.
The ho-hum first half of the season didn’t turn any heads; these acquisitions did.
The “Come Together” mantra at the beginning of the season seemed like nothing more than a silly hashtag for fans to include in their caption on Instagram.
Until it became a reality.
The Blue Jays were practising magic outside of Hogwarts for all of August and September. They never relented. They clinched a playoff spot. They clinched the division. They solidified their place in not only my heart, but every fan’s heart across this beautiful country.
Empty seats in the upper deck – that normally collected dust – were now acting as comfortable resting places for thousands of eager posteriors.
Something incredible was happening and everyone wanted to be a part of it. For the first time, in what felt like forever, Toronto had something to legitimately cheer about. And we got to share it with the rest of the country. No other team in Major League Baseball can do that.
The playoffs began and we felt like outsiders.
The Texas Rangers hated us. The umpires hated us. The American broadcasters hated us. Our turf was insulted. The catching abilities of Canadians was doubted. Sign-stealing accusations followed the team around like a bad odour.
So much hate for such friendly Canadians.
If there was ever an “Us vs. Them” situation, this was it.
And in Game 5 of the ALDS when we had the “not this way” moment in the top of the 7th inning – when we were sure a fluke play would be our demise – we were quickly reminded that this team could never be counted out.
A few errors, a couple of bench clearing skirmishes, and the bat flip of the century rounded out the craziest 7th inning in baseball history.
Oh yeah, we also threw a bunch of garbage on the field when we felt like it was warranted and were condemned for it by every writer who had a word count to fill. We were made out to sound like thugs. As if we were the first fan base to ever do such a thing.
Us crazy Canadians should just stick to hockey, eh?
Don’t worry, we’re sorry. We’re always sorry.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we won that game and the series after being down two games to zero.
On to Kansas City.
We lost the series in six games. The wound is still too fresh to delve into the details. I don’t think I want to. We can talk about the opportunities not taken, the home plate umpire’s strike zone, the fan who reached over the fence and caught a home run ball, and everything else in between. But it won’t change anything.
Might as well put on a sad song and get over it. We lost.
And yet it almost feels like we won. Almost.
I’ve never seen so many people cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays, whether they are a bandwagon jumper or not. I’m not sure it matters at this point. We were all in the trenches.
When the players celebrated, we celebrated. When the players were sad, we were sad. When Edwin walked the parrot, we walked the parrot. When Marcus Stroman pumped his fist, we pumped ours right back. When Josh Donaldson brought the rain, we danced in it.
It almost felt like we were right there in the dugout with them, sitting next to Munenori Kawasaki and taking part in the coordinated handshakes and gestures.
This team was like extended family that we only communicated with via retweets, favourites, and unread tweets. They gave us something to love – something to bring us together.
And as I scroll through my Facebook news feed right now, I see ample evidence of that.
I see people who are heartbroken, yet so unbelievably proud of their team because they believed that the impossible was possible and never wavered from that sentiment until the 27th out was recorded in Game 6.
And although this hurts, and watching the Royals in the World Series will bring a “that could’ve been us” thought to my head, it’s hard to be anything but proud of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The team came together.
The fans came together.
WE came together.