Sports

Our long national nightmare is over

Rah.
Image: Getty Images

Of course the Orioles would snap their 19-game losing streak against Shohei Ohtani. Why wouldn’t they? When you’ve lost every game for three weeks, become a national story, maybe even a metaphor for where the league is as a whole, you can’t just win a game. It’s not enough. You have to make a show of it, and it can’t come close to making sense. Best story in the game facing you? Now that’s a way to break a historic streak.

It would be easy to dismiss the plight of the Orioles themselves. They’re professionals, they still get to play Major League Baseball as a job, we should all be so lucky. But it’s impossible to ignore how much it must suck to show up to the park every day and know that it’s likely you’re going to get your brains beaten in. Sure, some of these guys probably have a preseason football attitude for it, where they’re getting stuff on tape for other teams for jobs down the line whenever the Orioles acquire better players. If the Orioles are planning on getting better players someday, that is.

I’m sure, for a limited amount of time, baseball players can compartmentalize and concentrate on that day’s game. Whatever happened before doesn’t matter, the end of the season is still too far on the horizon, so let’s just worry about what’s here in front of us, type of compartmentalization. But how long can you do that when you lose every time? When you’re down eight in the fifth inning, again, there’s no way your mind can’t cast back to the previous week or two, and it must just pile on and on to where that end of the season is even more over the horizon and may even feel like it’ll never come. Especially when it’s August in Baltimore and the humidity level is “Get Fucked!” and there’s no one in the park and you have to do it all again tomorrow.

So we can be happy that the O’s got a win that will feel better than probably any win they would have gotten this season. There’s something poetic about a truly shitty baseball team, because it’s the one sport where you have to show up every goddamn day. When you get to a streak like the Orioles had, it’s like watching Sisyphus live. The O’s still have five weeks to watch the boulder roll down the hill again and again. But for one night, they get to breathe.

A tribute to Charlie

I guess I needed a day to process, but wanted to take a moment to say goodbye to the ultimate role player in Charlie Watts.

Watts’ passing hit hard, because the Stones weren’t my favorite band, though I do love them, but they were my father’s. I know I’m hardly alone. As long as they were around, even in the glorified Vegas show that they’ve been for a long time now, it was a connection back to him. I guess the Stones could still tour, they were going to without Watts anyway this year, but they shouldn’t. And if they do, it won’t be the same. Charlie’s part of the core, and it’s greatly diminished if not vanished without him. .

What made the Stones the Stones is efficiency. All of their contemporaries could get lost within themselves for a while. Even the Beatles, with their four-track cred, got experimental and weird at times later on. Zeppelin could hit higher heights, but could also delve into a lot more bullshit. The Stones were simple. Great riff, with an impenetrable bottom and the world’s greatest frontman. Keith Richards never wrote a song that tried to be more than anything it had to be to be memorable. They basically all cut to the chase.

And Watts was the platform, in every way. He wasn’t constantly trying to show you how much he could do, like Keith Moon. He didn’t need 20-minute solos like John Bonham or Neil Peart (and I love both of those men, to be clear). Watts knew his job, and he did it excellently, expertly, within those lines. Keep it simple, because it works. Why even break a sweat?

Watts was the best sixth-man in rock history, the best checking center. It’s the duck’s legs under the water you don’t really think about, but the whole picture collapses without it. At the same time he could make it look so easy. But why should it look hard when you know the job so well? The Stones aren’t the Stones without Charlie’s swing, and that swing is all they needed.

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