The Mental Instability of Braves Fans

The year was 1992. It was Game Seven of the National Championship Series. Atlanta was playing Pittsburgh. Sid Bream slid into home like a Pontiac Trans Am piloted by Burt Reynolds.

Bream outran the throw from Barry Bonds, hit the dirt, and scored. The whole world exploded into confetti.

I was a chubby kid, watching the game at my aunt’s house. After the win, my cousin and I started dancing like James Brown, knocking furniture over, spilling my uncle’s beer on the sofa.

We cheered along with the broadcast voice of Skip Caray, who was shouting:

“BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN!”

“Braves win, Braves win…!” we cried, while the coffee table tumbled.

Then my aunt beheaded us with a dull spatula.

Fernando remembers that game, too. He’s 44 years old and a certified baseball lunatic.

This week, while Atlanta fights for a chance at the World Series, Fernando has been watching games from a hospital bed with his leg in a sling. He broke his femur recently from a bad fall.

His wife emailed me. She told me that Fernando has been rooting so loudly in his room that hospital nurses have threatened to gag him with his own sock and sedate him with veterinary-grade tranquilizers.

And there’s Madison, a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Tennessee. Madison is Deaf. Baseball is one of the main things she shares with her father. She also plays third base.

Madison’s messaged me after the Braves victory. She is too young to remember Sid Bream, but we speak the same language.

“Braves win, Braves win, Braves win!” she wrote.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails like this recently. They are sent mostly from fellow enthusiasts who suffer from seasonal psychosis like I do. And now that America’s Team stands on the precipice of the 2020 World Series, people like us are extremely stressed out.

My friend Todd is the biggest Braves fan I know, with a rumored tattoo of Bobby Cox located on his extreme lower back. I asked Todd how he was sleeping lately. He answered, “Man, I sleep like a baby; I wake up every hour and cry.”

I got another message from Raymond, a student at the University of Southern California. He used to live in Columbus, Georgia, once upon a time.

Raymond was 11 when his father died. Raymond’s mother moved the family to California, which is where he grew up. The only thing he remembers about his late father was that he was a Braves fan. These games are his only link to his dad.

A few nights ago, Raymond perched himself on a stool in a popular sports bar in downtown L.A. among Dodger sympathizers. He was clad in head-to-heel Atlanta apparel. He rooted openly for the Braves while large men with names like Vinny, Ramone, and Joey Bananas gave him ugly looks.

But alas, the road to the Fall Classic is jagged indeed. After winning the first two games, Atlanta got slaughtered in Game Three. Our men were bleeding on the diamond. It was a night blacker than the kaiser’s heart.

But then came Game Four. Redemption. The stadium in Arlington, Texas, trickled with a scant 10,000 fans. The game had all the melodrama of a low-budget chick flick. Somehow Atlanta triumphed.

Josh, his wife Kerry, and his two daughters, Kyla, and Kayla, rejoiced from 3,482 miles away in Alberta, Canada. Josh emailed as soon as it was over.

He wrote: “I know it’s late, but we’re breaking out the Pop Tarts and ice cream to celebrate! GO BRAVES!”

But Game Five brought another loss. A bitter one. To many of us, it was about as pleasant as dipping our heads in Miracle Whip and setting our hair on fire with an acetylene blowtorch. Many of us cried for 12 hours straight.

Sheldon and his wife, Jordan, were at their in-law’s house in Metairie, Louisiana, watching the television. Their living room turned into a grim graveyard. Sheldon writes, “My dad was taking Rolaids like they were M&Ms.”

Game Six came next. It was a beautiful game as games go. More ballet than stickball. The leaping pirouettes, the jackknife dives, the feet-first slides. For three hours, those of us with the unfortunate distinction of being called baseball fans sat poised between heaven and hell. The Braves lost.

But the details of the game don’t matter. Nothing matters right now. Because the Braves have one final shot at making it to the World Series, and I have an important message for them. I just hope it reaches them before gametime:

Dear Braves Organization,

I speak to everyone in your ball club. From the starting pitchers, to the guy who cleans the office toilets. I am just one lonesome voice out of millions. But I deliver sentiments that are shared by many. And here they are: Thank you.

You have made our lives abundantly better by giving us the game. This year was the worst year ever, but you lifted hordes of us from the quicksand of a COVID-fueled depression and made us glad.

During a time of misery you gave me something to cheer about. Something to love. Something to do. Your stadiums were empty, but thanks to you I wasn’t. You were the apex of this tragic summer. And I will never forget you for that.

So no matter what the final game’s outcome is, within the heart of this middle-aged fool, the words of Skip Caray will forever ring true:

Braves win. Braves win. Braves win.

26 comments

  1. pond crane - October 18, 2020 11:24 am

    I pray Joe has a chance tonight to say those words. 🙂

    Reply
  2. nashrrg - October 18, 2020 11:29 am

    As a long time Braves fan (Early 1970’s), I too have been swept up in this Braves ‘insanity’. Here is to hoping we can mix it up tonight and catch lightning in a bottle tonight!

    Reply
  3. Toni Adcock - October 18, 2020 11:40 am

    Amen!

    Reply
  4. Jo Ann - October 18, 2020 11:49 am

    We’ll be watching with you this evening & rooting for the Braves. My husband loves baseball & this year was tough, starting so late. We’re Orioles fans ( thanks for your sympathy!!) We’ll be sorry when it’s all over for the year, but will be looking forward to spring training. Go Braves!!!

    Reply
  5. Alison - October 18, 2020 12:25 pm

    Well said, Sean. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Beth DeSantiago - October 18, 2020 12:38 pm

    Thank you, Braves!!!! And thank you, Sean!!! Tensions of politics vs tensions of baseball……..BRAVES WIN!!! BRAVES WIN!!! BRAVES WIN!!!! You are so, so correct!

    Reply
  7. Xan - October 18, 2020 12:47 pm

    Sean, my second most favorite baseball team is the Braves. But my heart is with LA and I have bled Dodger Blue since I was a 10 year old girl listening to Vin Scully on my transistor radio under the covers when I was supposed to be asleep. We were living in Coronado, CA, then, and that was 60 years ago. Now I’m home in Alabama and I still want the Dodgers to win, but I know but no matter what, I’m going to have a team in the World Series! I love baseball!!!

    Reply
  8. Sandi. - October 18, 2020 1:13 pm

    Regardless of whether they win or lose, the Atlanta Braves will always be my number one favorite baseball team of all time! Thanks for giving them the recognition they deserve this season, Sean.

    Reply
  9. Margaret - October 18, 2020 2:24 pm

    Sean, my husband is right there with you! He, too, is an avid Braves fan and he never misses a game! They have the tenacity of a bulldog…they never give up! Go Braves!

    Reply
  10. Bethany G Payne - October 18, 2020 2:42 pm

    This was great! It has been a very stressful week, sitting on the end of the seat for every play. Thanks for making me smile. Go Braves!

    Reply
  11. Annak - October 18, 2020 3:28 pm

    You betcha! Braves win … no matter how today’s game turns out!

    Reply
  12. Robert M Brenner - October 18, 2020 4:19 pm

    Braves Win! Sweetest two words in the English language! ⚾️ “Braves Win”

    Reply
  13. Linda Moon - October 18, 2020 5:09 pm

    I think I remember Joey Bananas from “The Godfather”, part 3. Or maybe it was from “The Sopranos”. You almost became one of those high-pitched singers recently because of your wife’s kitchen utensil. Watch out for a dull spatula tonight when the Braves win!!

    Reply
  14. Robert Brown - October 18, 2020 5:23 pm

    I am a transplanted Georgian, and root for the Rays now, but when the Braves play tonight, I will have to cheer for them, since you are such a big fan. If they play the Rays, it will be hard but I will hope the Braves win!

    Reply
  15. carn1256 - October 18, 2020 6:05 pm

    I’ve loved the San Diego Padres since their PCL days, and they’ve been breaking my heart for more than six decades. This means I’m required by law to root against “that team” in LA. Go Braves!

    Reply
  16. Frances - October 18, 2020 6:39 pm

    Always enjoy your writing. Especially the hospice story and the one about Brother Nick, but I believe in this story about the Braves fans you have the date wrong. They won the World Series in 1995. But 1992 was a good year too. It was the year I got married! Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  17. KatieDoc - October 18, 2020 6:42 pm

    Braves Win is right! We’re with the Braves all the way! Have been from their start. Thank you Braves!

    Reply
  18. Melissa Williams - October 18, 2020 9:01 pm

    My Dad was a Cardinals fan from the time his father took him to St.Louis during the depression to see a World Series game. All that changed the minute we arrived in Atlanta in the summer of 1966. Instant Braves fan! I used to go to ballgames with him because I felt sorry for him cause they played so bad. There were so few fans in the stands that Milo Hamilton would spot Dad in the stands and say hello on the air. But all that changed in 1991 and 1992. I was thrilled for him and my husband! And I know my Fad is now cheering in heaven and still keeping score!!! Go Braves!!

    Reply
  19. Michael K.Smith - October 18, 2020 9:12 pm

    So true. Great article. When we win tonight I’ll be doing a follow-up to my late close friend, Skip Caray…. Braves Win!!! Braves Win!!! Go Braves. This has been a tough weekend for me with the abomination of the Vols. I know you probably weren’t any happier with your loss to Clemson. It’s got to get better. At least the Pups were beaten. Next up fo us…the Crimson Tide. Ugh.

    Reply
  20. Susan Mitchell - October 18, 2020 10:14 pm

    AMEN!!

    Reply
  21. Jan Hilton - October 19, 2020 1:33 am

    I’m a nervous wreck right now. The Dodgers just tied it up in the bottom of the third. I’m so thankful that baseball eventually came around this year. But I may be getting too old for the stress of post-season!

    Reply
  22. Tammy S. - October 19, 2020 3:22 am

    ❤️🇺🇸⚾️

    Reply
  23. Sherry H. - October 19, 2020 10:23 am

    A church friend is a Bream. We dropped by his Fourth of July party a few years ago and met cousin Sid. Since we are just occasional sports watchers (and spent 20 years living overseas and were focused on other things!) we had no idea who he was. My husband mentioned later that Sid had been a professional player. We looked him up – wow! By the way Shannon Bream of Fox News is married to Sid’s brother.

    Reply
  24. Cindy Feather - October 19, 2020 1:57 pm

    I don’t even like baseball but you had me in tears! I’m rooting for the Braves now just to honor these sweet people and their memories! Thank you as always for your beautiful stories. God bless!

    Reply
  25. JudyEady - October 19, 2020 5:59 pm

    Thanks! Maybe next year!😪

    Reply
  26. Ann Mills - October 21, 2020 2:42 am

    ♥️⚾️

    Reply

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