So your team was good this year, but not good enough to win the division (or they won 90+ games but played in the wrong division). The reward? They have to play a single elimination game. Now you get to face an ace to determine your postseason future. That sounds like fun if you win or hell if you lose. I’m a survivor of three Wild Card games. I suffered through agony, been in bliss, and I want to help you survive through your very own Wild Card game.
Location, Location, Location… and People
This is a stressful game, akin to Game 7, and you have to be in the right place. The worst possible viewing experience is watching the game in a room full of people who don’t know why you’re yelling so loud or crying so much. You need to find a location that will not mind you screaming when you get that game-ending double-play or a Darth Vader like “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” when the other team walks it off.
It’s just as important to find the right people to join you in your viewing experience. If you don’t have any fellow baseball-loving friends, go ahead and watch the game alone. Non-baseball fans just don’t get how much it hurts to see a successful 162-game season end because of one bad game. It’s very special kind of heartbreak.
Although your stomach will be tied up in all kinds of knots, due to the stress, you have got to remember to eat and drink. It will help keep you relaxed, and if your team is on the end of a historic performance (…or two) it helps to have a something to comfort you. Why else do you think Budweiser is a sponsor for the Wild Card games?
The Game Itself
We’ve covered my viewing tips, but now it’s time to talk about the game. As the game goes on you will get a feel for whether or not your pitcher is on. If he’s not, you may want to starting consuming that comfort food I mentioned earlier. The Wild Card game has been historically defined by pitching performances, outside of the 2014 Oakland-Kansas City game. However, the key moment to look for is the big home run. In 2013 it was the “CUEEETTTTOO” Russell Martin home run that sealed the game. In 2014 you had Brandon Crawford‘s grand slam. 2015 gave us Carlos Gomez‘s solo shot and Kyle Schwarber’s shuttle launch. If your team hits the big shot you could start celebrating early… But do you really want to jinx it?
It’s Okay to be Superstitious
Baseball lore is rife with curses, superstitions, and other kinds of voodoo. Some fans, including myself, get very superstitious during the playoffs and fear that any kind of misstep could anger the baseball gods and cause your team’s heartbreaking loss. Is it logical? Of course not, but do you really want to take that chance? The safe bet is just going through your entire day without doing a single thing differently. Unless you were supposed to do something special on this special day, don’t change a thing.
There are probably some naysayers out there calling me superstitious and what not. That’s understandable. Here is my story: The day of the 2015 NL Wildcard game (Giants at Pirates) my girlfriend asked me if I wanted it to be a close game. I told her “No, I want it to be an easy, non-stressful game. I don’t want it to be close, I want there to be no doubt that my team is gonna win. I want the Pirates to win 8-0.” Twelve hours later the Pirates had lost 8-0. What is sthe statistical probability of that happening? It was brutal.
I know I’ve probably made you sweat a little bit more than you wanted. Just remember to enjoy yourself if your team wins, and that there is always next year if they lose. If your team loses, take comfort that those winners get to play the Chicago Cubs/Texas Rangers, and they’ve already used their ace. Remember these tips and you should survive to watch another game, or another season.