For most teams, the MLB season ended on Sunday. As a lifelong fan of the Orioles, the season, realistically, ended somewhere back in early June. The Orioles have now gone 11 consecutive seasons without a winning record. With the Rays’ coming of age this season, the O’s are now the only American League team that has yet to have a winning season this century (In the NL, the Pirates and Reds are also losers of the century, but the Pirates have been more futile, without a winning season since 1992).

Despite these perennial exercises in un-success, come mid-March, my brother and I and many of our friends manage to convince ourselves that this is the Orioles’ year. Not the year that they win the division or make the playoffs, but the year that they manage to win more than 81 games, because they finally have that pitcher/shortstop/power bat that they need. We go to the games and watch them on TV. When they come to Seattle I’m one of about 10 Baltimore fans in the entire stadium.

Once they’ve been officially eliminated from playoff contention (usually sometime in August), it’s harder to watch them. But we still watch because it’s what we’ve done since we started following professional baseball and collecting the cards and autographs and making a daily ritual of checking the box scores and stats and standings. To a true fan, baseball is a lifestyle, and as soon as the final out of the World Series is made you actually withdraw somewhat from society, and don’t start to emerge until pitchers and catchers report in mid-February. But in late September when your team has been out of the race for over a month, you still care and die a little through each game of the several-game losing streaks that inevitably occur when rosters expand and the pro club starts trying out guys from AAA. It’s also easy to assume that the team’s regulars have given up and are just going through the motions at that point, not really caring how the team does from day to day.

But maybe it’s not fair to stereotype players like that. Take this past Saturday. The Orioles hosted the Blue Jays in a game that meant nothing to either team. Despite the imminent threat of rain, my brother and four friends attended the game. They had fantastic field-level seats on the third baseline. And they’d painted their chests to spell “HUFF!”. Unfortunately, Aubrey Huff was not in the starting lineup and didn’t make it into the game before the rain delay in the top of the 7th that ultimately ended the game. No matter. According to my brother:

When we got there we were momentarily disappointed to see that Huff
wasn’t even in the lineup, but after some fist pumps, chanting and
pointing in the general direction of the O’s dugout, a beer vendor
came over to our seats with a $100 bill in his hand and said, “Aubrey
Huff says to have a few rounds on him.” In that instant, more than a
decade of losing seasons was forgotten (at least temporarily).