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 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 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). 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 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’m 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 look up at the score. The Nationals are ahead 11-0, and the game is in the ninth inning. It is Game 4 of the best-of-5 NLDS, and the Nationals are 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’ve 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 about the dream with some friends in the day or two afterward, the thought crossed my mind wondering if my psyche has been affected by the futility of my team in the postseason.
It’s also worth noting that in the dream the Braves were losing the NLDS in four games. Losing 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).
In their last few playoff appearances, the team’s luck hasn’t been good. In 2005, it was a homer by seldom-used utility player Chris Burke of the Astros. In 2012, it was the controversial infield fly call against the Cardinals and three Braves errors. In 2013, it was Juan Uribe of the Dodgers hitting a homer after getting two strikes trying to put down a sacrifice bunt.
Over time, or at least in the course of my memory, the team hasn’t seemed to get the good breaks to balance out the offbeat plays that always seem to happen. And similar things happened in the World Series losses of the 1990’s, as I’ve seen in the video and heard in the stories of yesteryear.
But in the case of my dream, there was no such bad luck. It was a beatdown, at least 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.
Yes, 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 truth.
In this case, sometimes dreams are closer to reality.
(And by the way, 168 days to Opening Day…)