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September 2021

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Waxing nostalgic in real time, crowdsource style.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Every once in awhile, something happens in life that you know, as it is happening, you will remember for the rest of your days. Most momentous occasions don’t happen that way; you meet the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, and it usually just feels like you met this kind of cool woman or man. It’s not until later you realise that was the day your life changed, because our lives don’t usually change in huge, dramatic swings the way things happen in the movies.

This winning streak, and the subsequent race to the playoffs, has been one of those moments that, I think, we all know, and knew, would be in our memory banks forever. The rarity of a fifteen-plus game winning streak is a big part of that, of course; we see so few winning streaks of this length that it’s honestly a little tough to forget when one comes along. Even more than that, though, this winning streak has been fun. Fun in a way that baseball isn’t always; fun in a way that almost nothing is always. These have been exciting games, mostly, stacked one on top of another on top of another, heading back into the early part of the month of September, until the overwhelming whole screams out that we are not just seeing good baseball; we are seeing something Special.

There’s a little problem with what I just said, though. I said that this winning streak was special in the moment, that even as it was happening we could all appreciate how special it was. But then, that’s not really true, is it? Even the most amazing winning streak of all time is not special until some point in the process; the longest winning streak ever was still, at one point, just two wins on back to back nights. A seventeen game winning streak is one of the most special things we’ve ever seen, but that seventeen game winning streak was also a seven game win streak ten games ago, and what’s so special about a seven game streak? The answer is nothing, of course; seven game winning streaks happen from time to time, and we don’t usually thing much of them. Hey, team’s playing good ball right now, we might think, but seven wins in a row is not something to take note of for the history books.

So the question, then, circles back to where I began: did we really know how special this was while it was going on? While it is still, it should be pointed out, going on? At some point, of course, we all realised it was special, just as everything special in life becomes special at some point. But when was that? When did five good games become an historic run? When did a good week of September baseball become a September none of us will ever forget? Are we ever capable of recognising the special moments in life before they become so grand and obvious that we feel stupid for not seeing it before?

I don’t have an answer for that question, I have to tell you. I’m good at raising big, existential questions in these pages, but I never seem to answer anything. Wistful and melancholic and nostalgic are my stock in trade; answers to the big questions in life do not play in to what I do here. I don’t know when this winning streak became the winning streak we will all remember forever. As is the case with most things in life, it seemed to just sort of creep up, quietly, in the background, until one day look around and realise that some part of your life has changed. It was a couple of good games, then a couple more, then a couple more. There was an exciting comeback or two sprinkled in, and suddenly we’re talking eight, nine, ten games in a row. The numbers got big, and the excitement grew, but should we have seen something special was happening sooner? Did we miss the best part of the winning streak before it was a winning streak? I can never tell. It’s all reflection for me, all questions, all looking back and trying to make sense of life, when no one has ever really been able to answer the questions I invariably ask.

So instead of telling you more about what you already know, what you have seen going on in this warm September just as well as I have, I would simply like to throw open the floor the afternoon to you, the VEB commentariat. If you have a favourite moment of the streak, of September, let’s hear it. If you can pinpoint the moment you knew something special was going on, I would love to know.

The Cardinals are in the playoffs by dint of a magical streak in September, one that I’m sure none of us will ever forget. And in the years to come, we will remember the magical golden late September sun, and will recall Harrison Bader’s hair flying out behind him a dozen different times, and will recount the story of some late-inning magic or another. But we are not there yet. Nostalgia has not entirely set in. And so, here while the magical golden late September sun is still shining, before the sepia tones of memory set in, let’s talk about September, and a streak, and when you realised something good was turning into something special.