The most exciting boxing match I’ve ever seen in my life happened on April 15, 1985 when Tommy Hearns took on Marvin Hagler for the middleweight title. It was exhilarating. It was electrifying. It was, perhaps, the most action-packed fight in the history of fights. It was also brutal and hard on the stomach and felt like it was animated by something wholly different than what I enjoyed about boxing. I’m glad I witnessed it but I hoped at the time that I’d never see another fight like it again.
As I write this, five hours after Alex Bregman‘s walkoff single, I feel much the same way about Game 5.
Make absolutely no mistake: Game 5 may have been the most exciting, rollercoaster ride of a baseball game any of us have ever seen or ever will see. The seven homers, the eight lead changes, and the fact that the Astros ripped victory-from-the-jaws-of-seemingly-certain defeat on not just one but, perhaps three or four occasions set this game apart from any other World Series game I can remember. It was an instant classic, right up there with Game 6 in 1975, Game 1 of 1988, Game 6 of 2011, Game 7 of 2001 and Game 6 of 1986. It will — and should — feature prominently on highlight reels and in the memories of any baseball fan who was fortunate enough to witness it. I went to bed and tried to sleep after it was over but managed only about three restless hours because the game strung me out like Christmas lights.
It also, in some hard-to-define way, felt wrong. It felt like the product of a tear in the fabric of baseball relativity. One that I hope was a mere anomaly. Something special for having visited itself upon us, but one which I hope is not repeated for some time.
I don’t know if the baseball is juiced or if, as the players are suggesting, it’s too slick, but every time the ball came off the bat it seemed as if it was going to fly at least 385 feet. It felt like watching a video game. Every time a new reliever was brought into the game he felt as if he was already three quarters of a tank down and probably was. It felt like watching a slaughter. Something in the mind of Dave Roberts, a manager known for his calm resolve, broke, causing him to call on Brandon Morrow despite saying he wouldn’t, leading to disastrous results. It felt like watching a man lose his mind. A fan ripped a souvenir ball out of his companion’s hand and angrily threw it on the field in an ugly act that looked like it ended a friendship. Maybe all of the dramatic shifts in momentum were too much for some folks to take.
Maybe it was too much for me to take too. In addition to it messing with my ability to sleep, it had me sitting here thinking stuff I rarely if ever think. It had me wondering if baseball is broken in some way. If, in 2017, the balance between power and finesse, action and repose, strategy and abandon is somehow off. If pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel look utterly helpless, if a game dominated by bullpens can’t produce a reliever capable of putting out a fire, if neither of the two best teams in baseball can sustain momentum for more than a half inning and if a game I have come to love for its steady rhythm, building drama and exquisite balance can’t be counted on to deliver any of that, has it not lost its very gravity? And if it has, what do we have to cling on to?
But then I breathe. And I remember that this is just one game. That after a day off, we stand just as good a chance of a two-and-a-half hour, 2-1 pitchers duel in Game 6 as we do anything else. That, like so many things in life, Game 5 may have been a tumultuous, stomach-churning experience, but when we all calm down we will be happy that we were lucky enough to experience it.
But, like Hagler-Hearns, I think it’s excusable for us to hope, at least a little bit, that we never experience a a thing like it again.