Dave Bidini is the author of Baseballissimo and band member of Rheostatics
Winter has almost arrived, and yet the summer is still here: running shoes on feet over grass; white ball, blue sky; the greasy pocket of a mitt hewn with sweat; peanut shells and sweet ennui; and you and me on the benches above the dugouts. Baseball is still being played by a team in our country.
Blue Jays baseball.
The best and only kind.
In Canada, hockey and winter come hard, as if they can't wait to start (because they can't). This is fine because hockey and winter are fine – they define us, or so the ice poets say – but it's okay when they wait awhile, too; held at bay by a game, and a team, that refuses to stop. Refusing to stop. It's what the Blue Jays have been good at- four wins in four sudden death games in the 2015 post-season – and why, despite the winter coats and snow boots and toques and gloves that make their way up the back stairs from basement shelves, playoff evenings are still a part of October. We watch through the fading light and cooling skies, held to a silly dream that, because of a team and a game, summer might last forever.
For fans, this has been the most electric and dramatic Blue Jay season in 22 years. Every game since the regular season has been a rare and glorious bonus. It's been even better for people who never watched baseball before, noticing the game – its colours, its tenor, its rhythm, its kindness, its voices – the way one notices a flower in the darkness of the underbrush or found-art on the face of a lamp pole you've passed every day of your life.
I know a man, a shopkeeper, whose vintage store I frequent whenever I'm riding past on my bike. I saw some Jays paraphernalia in his shop window, and when I asked if he was a baseball fan, he told me, "No. Well, not before. This is the only – and first time – I've ever cared about sports in my entire life." When he said it, his eyes grew dewey. And then my eyes grew dewey. Damned the cynics, but for all of the money and cultural opiates, sports and teams are about love; all of us, tasting the same taste and doing the same dance.
Another story: last week, a friend found himself watching the strange, tortured and majestic 7th inning of Game 5 versus Texas with a dozen strangers in Toronto on a bus moving west through the cold, dark night. Together, they huddled around his phone, whooping with the good and braying to the bad. People screamed with joy and relief when it was all over. The bus driver sounded his horn and stopped to change the front of the bus so that it said GO JAYS GO instead of wherever the bus was heading.
People have cheered from the Avalon and they've cheered from Tuktoyaktuk (I know this because my friend, Eileen Jacobson, who hauls her satellite into the bush, told me). We've been a nation united, for a change, by a game not played with a puck. The 2015 Blue Jays have reminded us that, as northerners boastful of our resilience and ability to continue despite the hard conditions, we are other things, too. We chase the sun for every last bit of light and we want to keep moving: running shoes on feet over grass. It's okay to admit that.
And it's okay to be sad when Toronto Blue Jays baseball ends – whenever that may be. Because it all felt so good.