Every baseball fan knows that they can change the outcome of a game through sheer force of will. I'm not talking about the fan who reaches into the field to catch a fly ball, or even the wall of noise created by an excited crowd. No, I mean the fan yelling "DROP! DROP! DROP!", as she watches the game at home, the fan muttering "c'mon" at the game through the car radio, even the fan writing viciously about the front office during the off season. Why else would we do those things if not to change the outcome? Why shush a fan who dares to say "no hitter" in the middle of a no hitter? Why shun the Camden Chatter who posts a premature O? Surely we're not just shouting into the void?
Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? They looked like regular chapter books, but after just a page of introduction, where I learned that I'd fallen through a portal into King Arthur's Court, or the time of the dinosaurs, I was given a choice. "To take the road to town, go to page 33. To follow the Wizard deeper into the forest, go to page 8."
This repeated several times until the king threw me in the dungeon or a tiger chased me off a cliff, at which point I was presented with the least satisfying "The End" in juvenile fiction. So of course I went back to the beginning and made different choices, hoping I could defeat the bad guys and win the fair maiden, which is what passed for success in those books. There was always one ending like that, but just the one. I spent a lot of time falling in bottomless wells in those books, but I had just a bit of control, so despite the thin plots and man-eating minotaurs, I went back looking for the ending that I wanted, the satisfying ending that I was sure was hidden in the book somewhere.
Baseball fandom is that kind of adventure. There are a very few fans out there who are, in fact, in tune with the vibrations of the universe. They can make wild predictions fueled by late nights of scotch and bonfires and those predictions will be made true. We call them prophets and madmen.
For most of us, like in the Choose Your Own Adventure books, we don't know what the outcome of our decisions will be. Actions and outcomes are not as neatly linked as we would like. Heck, we don't even know when the decision points are. We can't just yell "Throw strikes!", at a pitcher and make it so. For all we know, that pitch is happening in the middle of a page and it is already written. When someone decided "To buy a hotdog and a Boh, turn to page 5" instead of "To buy crab dip waffle fries and a Dead Rise, turn to page 20," a die was cast. Back at her seat, our hot-dog-and-Boh fan is cheering for her team to get a hit, never realizing she's already set the events of that inning in motion. At home, the kid listening to the game on the radio, long after bedtime, doesn't realize that his decision to stay in his room instead of sneaking downstairs and turning on the TV has influenced the whole series.
If you're inclined to think this nonsense, then I have no better evidence than 2011 Game 162. Boston fans were complacent despite their epic choke. Orioles fans wanted to beat Boston despite how little it meant for the team. Do you think Carl Crawford, major league baseball player, just failed to catch Andino's hit? Crawford was right there. Crawford's glove was right there. Carl Crawford should have caught that ball. And yet he did not catch that ball. He flubbed the catch and the Orioles won the game that triggered our current golden era. How did such a thing happen? Somebody decided to choose mustard and relish instead of ketchup for their hotdog and turned to page 4 instead of page 22. There is no other possible explanation.
Every opening day is the first page in a new book, a longer book with more surprising twists, higher highs and lower lows than anything R. A. Montgomery ever wrote for us, and this might be the year we navigate to the World Series the first time through. We don't know yet what cliffs or dungeons or bottomless wells await us. We don't know if the road to town or following the Wizard will put us on the right path. We only know the hope and excitement of a new story, a fresh start, new choices. That is the promise of Opening Day.
"To root for the Orioles today, turn to page 10."
The stories presented as part of the 2016 Camden Chat Opening Day Marathon are written by members of our community. To add your voice to the site please consider writing a FanPost.