Why Blue Jays fans should absorb this season’s disappointment

Arden Zwelling and Jeff Blair discuss some of the players within the Toronto Blue Jays organization that could get called up to the MLB in September.

About once per season, I’ll tweet something to the effect that if the Toronto Blue Jays game operations want to engage the crowd in a sing-along, they should play Trooper’s “We’re Here for A Good Time.” It’s a bouncy cottage dock-rock classic that most hosers know and anyone can learn within one listen.

But beyond the inherent pop appeal of the song, there’s a simple yet profound message that rests on the surface of the lyrics.

We’re here for a good time,
Not a long time.
So have a good time,
The sun can’t shine everyday.

It’s not exactly poetry or literature, but as far as mantras go, it makes a pretty compelling case for accepting that life is filled with struggle, strife and sadness, which makes it that much more important to embrace joy and pursue happiness.

With that sentiment, it strikes me as an appropriate anthem for baseball fans. The sport comes back to us in the spring, as the snow melts and the sun gets warmer and raises itself higher in the sky for longer each day. And then, every year, a chill hits the air, and the reality that the end of the schedule is rapidly approaching its conclusion.

In most seasons, the outcome for almost every team is a disappointment. Only 10 teams make the playoffs, and six of them are dispatched within a week. Even among the three of the final four teams who do not end up as champions, the conclusion is a bit of a downer.

After a 22-year playoff drought followed by two memorable post-season campaigns, it’s understandable that Blue Jays fans will have a profound level of disappointment as the season concludes this month with whimper.

Fans have spent the past week pondering the greatest Blue Jays and the history of the franchise, but what is sometimes overlooked is the degree to which the 1992 and 1993 championship teams provided cathartic celebrations after years of letdowns and devastating failures.

Is Roberto Alomar’s home run against Dennis Eckersley as meaningful without the drubbing the Jays took at the hands of the Oakland Athletics in 1989, or the previous year’s loss to the Minnesota Twins? Likely not. It wasn’t merely a matter of a big hit in a big game; it was that a crushing weight was lifted from your heart. The history of inevitable defeats erodes your faith, and then suddenly, it is restored.

There is a tendency to look back wistfully on the years between 1985 and 1993, when the Blue Jays were a model franchise and building towards their repeat championships, and maybe that’s as it should be. There’s been enough good times to enjoy and celebrate that one need not belabour the 3-1 lead squandered in the 1985 ALCS.

We rejoice in the “Touch ‘em all, Joe” walk-off homer, and set aside the fourth-place finish in 1986, or the collapse in the final week of the 1987 season. We forget that in 1988, the Blue Jays appeared to be backsliding, and perhaps never fulfilling their perceived promise.

They were “chokers,” and if you were a true believer who was invested in the team, that term was used gleefully as a cudgel to knock the optimism out of anyone who wished for better.

We forget almost completely that the Blue Jays were in first place in the last week of 1990 before losing two of three to the Red Sox. That Duane Ward and Tom Henke coughed up runs in the eighth and ninth, respectively, to give up the lead in the division in a game that turned out to be the most important of the season.

And every year has its share of tears,
And every now and then it’s gotta rain.

The elation of the ’92 and ’93 championships, or even the Bat Flip or last year’s wild card or Donaldson’s mad dash, were made sweeter by the release of tension and anxiety, and the knowledge of all the failures that came before.

This isn’t unique to the Blue Jays, or Toronto sports teams. The tale of many of the past 15 championships has been the long droughts that were finally quenched. The Angels, Red Sox, White Sox, Phillies, Giants and Cubs all ended decades-long, frustrating pursuits of championships in recent years. Among this year’s top contenders, Cleveland has the longest championship drought in baseball (68 years), while the Astros and Nationals have never won a title. Even the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers have gone 28 seasons since Kirk Gibson’s heroics in 1988.

There’s plenty of grief to go around.

This season began with a thud, and rarely gave more than fleeting glimpses of bliss or reasons for anticipation. The team has never been above .500, and its lowest point was falling to 11 games under .500 this past week. Players have been injured and players have underperformed, and seemingly, things are headed in the wrong direction.

But over the coming month, it’s worth it for Jays fans to absorb these last fleeting moments of this season. There are individual players, like Justin Smoak and Marcus Stroman, who will conclude seasons that we should always remember and appreciate.

There will be faces who will soon disappear from Toronto, never to be seen sporting the bluebird again. There are players who will play small roles this month who may emerge to form part of the nucleus of the next championship.

The sun can’t shine every day. But let’s enjoy the moment while we can.

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