Last week I was right in the middle of two things: one of my toughest weeks of college so far, and the baseball postseason. I paid attention to the playoff games as much as I could while I studied for a test or two, wrote a major paper, and even edited and produced a video project on a friend and suitemate’s musical talents (he did his for the same class on my sports writing).
One night, while I tried to relax my mind, which was tired from the day’s studies, I began thinking about the baseball playoffs, as both League Championship Series were in full swing. One thought led to another, and eventually I was thinking about my team of choice, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves didn’t necessarily have a bad team, as they were in contention for the postseason for most of the year, but missed the playoffs after an abysmal month of September, eventually leading to a 79-83 record and the firing of GM Frank Wren.
Some of my friends have heard me say the only sporting event that would ever bring me to the point of tears would not be a loss of any kind (with the teams I pull for, I’ve seen games lost about every way possible), but would be tears of joy if the Braves win a World Series. I’ve thought that for a while, but I now know that for a fact after I was near tears after a big, close, tense playoff win for the Florence RedWolves, the collegiate summer baseball team I interned for this summer in the Coastal Plain League, as they reached the Petitt Cup Finals (which they eventually fell just short in). I’ve thought that if I got that emotional for a team I followed for three months, imagine what it would be like if a team I’ve followed all my life (19 years and counting) achieves the ultimate goal.
So, on this night, my imaginative thoughts as I lay in bed became centered around the future possibility of a Braves World Series title. I thought about this for a minute, and it became the last thing I remember before falling asleep.
Then came my dream.
I dreamed I was watching a Braves playoff game on TV, against the Washington Nationals, who are currently considered by most the Braves biggest rival (this changes periodically based on who is good in the NL East). I looked up at the score. The Nationals were ahead 11-0, and the game was in the ninth inning. It was Game 4 of the best-of-5 NLDS, and the Nationals were about to clinch a 3-1 series win in the first round series. Disappointed, I take a deep breath.
Then I realize I’m crying. It’s not because my team has lost in the playoffs. It’s not because they lost to the Nationals. But it’s as if the combination of all of the above, combined with the blowout score of the season-ending game, has me overwhelmed and heartbroken to the point of tears.
I wake up.
Obviously, I realize this was just a dream. Believe me, after the awful September my conscience knows the Braves missed the playoffs, so this wasn’t one of those situations where you believe for a minute the dream was real before realizing it was in another dimension. But I am somewhat startled at the fact that my brain was able to have that particular dream after I fell asleep thinking positive thoughts about the future possibility of a championship.
But as it turned out, my dream was closer to reality than my conscious, awake thoughts.
Consider the Braves recent playoff history. Since losing the 2001 NLCS to the eventual world champion Diamondbacks, the Braves have not won a playoff series, losing in the first round in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010, and 2013, and losing the one-off Wild Card Game in 2012 (known in Atlanta as “The Infield Fly Game”).
Before that, in five World Series appearances in the 1990s, the Braves won it all exactly once, in the year I was born, 1995, meaning that they were successful in the early rounds but, in four cases, fell short on the final step to baseball immortality.
While I joked with some friends in the day or two following the dream, the thought crossed my mind wondering if my psyche has been affected by the futility of my team in the postseason.
Another interesting aspect of the dream is that the team was losing in the NLDS in 4 games. Losing in the NLDS by a 3-1 margin was the norm of my childhood and adolescence for the Braves, as they have lost in exactly 4 games in their last four NLDS appearances (2004, 2005, 2010, 2013).
The luck for the team seems rough in the playoffs as well. In 2005, it was the homer by backup infielder Chris Burke of the Astros. In 2012, it was the controversial infield fly call on a ball that the Cardinals defense let drop in. In 2013, it was Juan Uribe hitting a homer after he got to swing away because he got two strikes trying to put down a sacrifice bunt. Over time, or at least the course of my memory, the team hasn’t seemed to get the good breaks to balance out the offbeat plays such as these that always seem to happen. And similar things happened in the World Series losses of the 1990s, as I’ve seen in the video and heard in the stories of yesteryear.
But in the case of the dream, there was no such bad luck. It was a beatdown, or at least it was in the clinching game. I could almost hear the fan base complaining about another loss in the playoffs, and particularly one where they didn’t have much of a chance in the finale.
Part of me wondered if this was a premonition, perhaps of next season, or one further down the road. But I don’t claim to have any kind of ESP or precognition of future events, as there is no evidence I’ve ever had anything like that happen to me. Besides, the only being that knows the future is God, and I think He’s got more important things to do than feed the future of a college student’s sports team to him during a dream.
In this case, it was almost as if my conscience had to remind me, through my dreams, that the Braves haven’t won anything in the playoffs in 13 years, and haven’t won a World Series in 19 years. While my thoughts before bed were just wishful thinking for the future, I was, in a way, daydreaming.
But it seems the dream I could consciously control was just that, a dream for the future, while the dream concocted by my resting brain during the night seemed like a dose of reality.
In this case, sometimes dreams are closer to reality.
(And by the way, 168 days to Opening Day…)