The saying goes that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. In light of everything that has happened in the last 24 hours, I find myself less angry and frustrated than I might have expected. I do feel a substantial amount of melancholy due to the fact that I must come to grips with the fact that our beloved Brewers were eliminated from playoff competition by a hated rival in a decidedly embarrassing manner. But rather than bowing my head in shame and self-pity, I am compelled to express my feelings by writing a eulogy for a team that took its fans on a wild ride and provided memories that shall endure for many years to come.
While as fans we can second guess the decisions that led to our favorite team’s demise, the fact of the matter is that the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers were a flawed creation much like ourselves. Weaknesses on defense and the lack of timely hitting ultimately led to what we should have anticipated but dared not to believe to be a foregone conclusion. However, these Brewers exceeded expectations at every turn and led us to dream of the unthinkable, a World Series title coming to Milwaukee for the first time in over 50 years. At the outset of the season, the team was pegged as a possible championship contender by the national baseball media and casual observers alike. Theirs were prognostications based on the list of names on the roster rather than consistent observations of the performance of the team. In the end, their thoughts carry little weight as championships are won on the field of play not on spreadsheets or in the minds of pundits.
As true fans of this Brewers team, we allowed our dreams to cloud our better judgment time and time again because we wanted the team to succeed against all odds. We watched this team struggle to advance runners and score in key situations repeatedly but as the wins kept piling up we thought better of it to look the other way. We disregarded the fact that the team’s offense relied too heavily on home runs and the two superstars in the middle of the lineup rather than having balanced contributions from all the offensive pieces. We tried hard to ignore the substandard defense at multiple positions because we felt that as long as the offense produced the team would be absolved of all of its shortcomings.
Ours was the folly of the small market fan base; hoping against all reason that this was our year because in all likelihood this opportunity may not come around again anytime soon. As the management of the team knew that its perennial all-star first baseman was set to leave for greener pastures following the season, they made moves that in their own words signified going “all in,” to borrow a term from gambling parlance. We as fans were also forced into the same position, placing the burden of all the hopes and dreams of a long tormented base onto this season’s team. But as all seasoned gamblers know, going “all in” can be a tactic used to fool an opponent into conceding defeat by making them believe in the strength of your hand, whether or not that strength is a reflection of reality. Unfortunately, our hand was strong but not strong enough to endure all challenges and so we find ourselves here today lamenting the somber reality of losing.
Without getting into the minute details of baseball economics, the reasons are clear why our chances to cheer for a winner are few and far between. We have been told over and over again that our market is the smallest in baseball and that our team’s revenue streams are severely limited due to that fact. Our team cannot spend money recklessly on free agents and purchase division titles simply due to its location. But that does not deter us from going to the ballpark and supporting our team in greater numbers than many other teams in larger markets. It does not dampen our pride in our team and our home state in the least bit. We embraced the renegade attitude of our team because we’re not a part of the privileged when it comes to baseball traditions and as such we feel no sense of entitlement. We know that we are not from New York, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles and we don’t care. Our team is the Milwaukee Brewers, the 2011 National League Central Champions and no one can take that away. So look back on this season for fond memories and look to the future with open hearts and open minds. There are greater days yet to come.