Last summer, after the initial excitement of my new apartment on the edge of the Menomonee River Valley wore off, I found myself, like everyone else in Milwaukee, caught up in the 2007 pennant race.
But it was a slog compared to this year’s red-hot race — last year the Cubs and the Brewers were each barely better than .500 teams, and it seemed like they were both trying to give away the NL Central title instead of banging out wins every night.
We were Number One as late as Tuesday, Sept. 11 — is there a better metaphor for that constant sinking feeling, standing in the way of Fun, we’ve suffered throughout the 2000s?
I decided I would take advantage of my proximity to the park and take the fam to a game, in some decent seats, before the regular season ended and things were either really heated, or over. Feelings of doubt were creeping in like the cooler nights, but on that day, a beautiful fall Saturday, Sept. 15 in the city by the lake, Prince Fielder gave us reason to believe — by breaking the single-season Brewers home run record.
You’re going to love Prince Fielder. Even if you slam him for being a baby, or fat, or a diva or *gasp* a vegetarian, you’re going to love him. Because when it comes right down to it, do you want to know life’s terrifying truths? Or do you want to see Princey sock a few dingers?!
When this story about Prince becoming a vegetarian first broke, I wrote my friend Laura that I was having a hard time decide what was the awesomest part:
Prince has apparently become a vegetarian after learning of the meat industry’s disgusting practices. He’s also working on his fielding after he realized he committed the most errors of any NL 1st baseman. This was pointed out to him by his wife. (!) Her name is Chanel. (!!) He’s also growing dreads. (!!!)
Prince even leaned on the press for encouragement in getting his haircut to rockstar status, like Manny Ramirez. Manny’s a rockstar… but he’s also insane.
“Stay on me, guys. Don’t let me give it up.”
As I wrote before, a few days before he turned 24, he shaved his head:
Last Friday, he turned 24, and shaved his head. When I was that age (i.e., last year) I had a terrible “I’m growing my hair out before I have to be a grownup” phase. Then I realized, I already am a fucking grownup. It’s time to start kicking ass and taking names.
And so he continues, telling himself there’s nothing standing in his way, just as we do everyday:
“So I can at least fake it till I make it. If I keep faking myself out into thinking I’m good, it’ll happen. Just fake it till you make it, baby.”
When I first explained the Brewers to Posh Tosh, I told her to go into the living room and look at the Brewers photo calendar page on my wall with Prince.
“Yeah? So, what? He’s fat?” she said.
“He’s not fat!” I yelped “He’s a big boy!”
Posh appreciated Prince decided to stop eating meat after reading “Skinny Bitch,” a diet book with became popular after one of her style idols, Victoria Beckham, was photographed merely pursuing it at a bookstore.
Prince reminds us how delicate success can be — he’s appeared prickly at times this year when things have been going less than perfectly, especially compared to last year…
Prince came up in the bottom of the third, facing Kirk Saarloos. The crowd knew that he was tied for the single-season franchise home run record, but wasn’t buzzing as it was in his first at-bat.
Prince took a called strike, a called ball, and then swung and missed, bringing the count to 1-2.
The next pitch was met with a crack that scorched the air on the way to our eardrums and brought all 40,710 fans to their feet as the ball zipped out of sight.
There was no doubt. Prince had straight killed that shit.
We stood and applauded as he rounded the bases. The cheering did not diminish even as he sat back down in the dugout, away from our view. The umpire and the Reds catcher stood at ease behind home plate, with no intent of continuing. They couldn’t have — it was too loud to hear the call of balls and strikes.
Prince hopped to the top of the dugout stairs, and waved his batting helmet at each section of the crowd — exposing a mini-mohawk haircut during the baseball tradition, a curtain call.
J.J. Hardy added to the lead later in the game by tattooing a home run ball of his own, and we left fat and happy with a 5-2 lead. As we filed toward the escalator, P-House and I heard the stadium public address system play DJ Khaled.
Yeah, we the best! … We takin’ over! (one city at a time)
The Brewers were two games back. But there was no panic. We could sweep the Astros, split with the Cardinals and Braves, and sweep the Padres if we had to — easily claiming the division title. The memory of leaving the park that night reminds me in retrospect of Fear & Loathing:
Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
There was madness in any direction, at any hour . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than (one year) later, you can go up on a steep hill in (Milwaukee) … and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.