That's where this comes to you from, if I had my way about it. This will probably be short, which you don't deserve after two days of radio silence caused by me hanging on to the CWS finals and neurotically pausing the DVR for like 30 minutes at a time, racing forward, racing backward, and generally watching the games in a way totally unenvisioned by live TV viewers of 15 years ago.
It'll be short because I've never wanted to write anything less in my life**, and because my usual style is useless here. Simply put, I haven't been so stung by a loss since the '09 Stanley Cup Finals, and that one sapped all hockey interest from me for months. It lasted almost to the next year's playoffs.
It's the knowledge that it is incredibly damn hard to get back to this spot. That's what haunted me then and that's what haunts me now. And this: this was a team that absolutely deserved to win a national championship. So much resilience, so many gritty performances, gone to waste for the want of any one of a thousand things that all went the wrong way. And that's stinger #3 - knowing that UVa played so well that you could literally change just one event in either of two games and today would be a celebration.
Fact is, UVa generated five times the opportunities that Vanderbilt did. And Vanderbilt cashed in on 100% of the chances they had, which makes all the difference when you only convert about 25% of your own - and makes it sting knowing you could've won by converting 26%.
Everybody hates hearing the losers say, "the better team lost," and especially anything about the officiating, but it's just so damn hard not to sometimes. All it took to lose this series was one inning from hell, two rinky-dink garbage runs, and a well-timed towering blast. Win 3/4 of the battles, lose the war.
And, by the way, no help from the umpires. When you complain about the umpires, people usually jump in and say, "that's not why we lost," proceed to lament missed opportunities, and the argument goes on as if the two positions are mutually exclusive. They're not. Yes, not scoring on uncountable RISP opportunities is pretty much the reason for all this - that doesn't make the umpires suddenly good. I don't have the stomach or patience for this kind of exercise - at least not right now - but it wouldn't be hard to put together a video of the apparently octopus-shaped strike zone from home plate blue last night. Josh Sborz left after one inning in large part because he didn't get the shin-high, three-foot-wide strike zone that Carson Fulmer did. And then the zone got even less consistent as time went on. Did you notice ESPN's "K Zone" at all from about the 6th inning onward? You did not. And - I'm aware of the "transfer rule" but that was one of the most egregiously bad applications of it that ever existed. Had Derek Fisher been called safe - well, you always have to be careful about declaring what would've happened afterwards, because then some coach or pitcher or someone would've made a different decision. But the sequence that followed - a balk and a hit - at least makes it more likely that you can say it made a difference. The announcers were unanimous in calling that a huge break.
I know we'll have most of this pitching staff back next year, but seriously - it's gonna take a little while before I care. This team is the one that got away. There's only one thing that can fix this - you know what that is, but it's a fan luxury to just be able to reset every year and hope for it. There's a few pro careers beginning soon for guys that missed their one chance.
**Though I've also rarely felt so obligated.