Lang’s World: Want to be a sports fan? Get ready to hurt.

Over the last few years, several electric scooter companies have flocked to Memphis. They cost a few dollars to rent for minutes at a time, and they ostensibly present a quick, sustainable way to get around town for short distances.

I don’t live close enough to regularly ride a scooter to work, but a few times when I’ve had meetings near FedExForum, I’ve jumped on a scooter and scooted to or from the meeting, which can be a fun diversion in an otherwise mundane day.

One day a few months back, I needed to get over to the apartments where the Grizz Gaming players live, just blocks from FedExForum. Rather than drive there and back, I grabbed a scooter, then zipped there and back. Only it didn’t go exactly as planned: While coming back down the side street next to FedExForum, I realized I was going too fast. I tried to slow down, but before I could reach a manageable speed, my handlebar scraped the side of the building, and all of a sudden I found myself flying headfirst through the air. Given the choice of sacrificing a body part, I got a thigh down first, which landed hard on the edge of the scooter itself, and then touched down on my elbows. And then I skidded for a while.

My initial feeling was anger. I was one day away from leaving on a family vacation to the beach, and my thigh was immediately throbbing. I was going to have to deal with this for the next while, I knew. Had I broken my leg? I climbed to my feet and kinda stood there, hands on thighs, like I’d just slid into second base. If I was able to stand, my leg probably wasn’t broken, I told myself. Blood was everywhere. My wrist was also throbbing, and I was worried I’d broken it, too. Embarrassed and injured, both physically and emotionally, I limped inside and found a bathroom where I could clean up in peace.

This is pretty much the same way I felt on Wednesday afternoon, about ten minutes into Game 5 of the National League Division Series, when my Atlanta Braves opened their deciding game of the season by allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to score 10 runs—ten!—in the top of the first inning.

The good news was that within minutes of turning it on, I knew the game was definitely over—TBS may as well have started showing “Seinfeld” reruns and put the Braves game in a small box in the corner. I got up and put on my swimsuit and went out to the pool. An entire summer of watching games, week after week of investing three to four hours a night in the Braves, ended in this painful crash. Great.

Bobby Cox on the field

Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame former manager Bobby Cox (6) during the MLB Spring Training baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves on March 27, 2018, at SunTrust Field in Atlanta, GA. Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.


To be honest, in some ways it was better than losing on a walk-off hit, which is how the Braves lost Game 4, when Cards catcher Yadier Molina took a rare break from slowly visiting the mound to poke a ball over the infield. It was still painful, but it was quick, like pulling off a Band-Aid.

You could say I wrote the book about being a Braves fan, because I literally wrote a book about being a Braves fan. I grew up watching the Braves on TBS, and got to live through the Bobby Cox era, when the Braves won their division 14 consecutive seasons and pretty much consistently beat everyone they played against. Which was great!

Except in the playoffs. Yeah, the Braves went to the postseason for 14 consecutive trips, and managed to win one World Series. At least they won one!

The other thirteen trips, though? Nope. And it’s gone on in the modern era, as well. Did you know the Braves have lost every postseason series they’ve played in since 2002? Yep.

Turns out, all those losses doesn’t make them any easier to stomach. In this series, I mostly found myself frustrated by Braves manager Brian Snitker and his seemingly random approach to the rotation and the bullpen. Our best pitcher all season, Mike Soroka, pitched a total of 7 innings in the entire series. The Braves lost Game 1, won Game 2 almost in spite of Snitker, won Game 3, and then had two games to win one to advance to the National League Championship Series. As Game 4 wound toward a finish, the Braves nursing a 4-3 lead, Snitker turned to the bullpen. Reliever Sean Newcomb came in and faced three batters and recorded three outs, on just 12 pitches. He was clearly hot and obviously pitching well, and for some Snitker pulled him. He then brought in Josh Tomlin, who quickly recorded 4 outs on just 10 pitches.

Snitker took him out also! In Tomlin’s place, in came Shane Greene, who promptly gave up 3 hits and a run and blew the lead. When we reached extra innings, Snitker turned to the wildly inconsistent Julio Teheran, who just days earlier had been left off the postseason roster. Now the season was in his hands. TBS announcer Brian Anderson said, “You just don’t know which Julio Teheran you’re going to get.” I tweeted that I was pretty sure which Teheran we were going to get.

I was right.

Ronald Acuna Jr. hits a home run

Ronald Acuña Jr. #13 of the Atlanta Braves hits a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning in game one of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images.


The good news is, there is still plenty to look forward to in the years to come. We have a lot of great young pitchers and prospects, from Soroka to Ozzie Albies, and of course, Ronald Acuña is the most exciting young player in baseball. He’s 21 years old, and can run and hit for average and power, has swag to spare and is just a lot of fun to cheer for. Now, this may come as a shock to some people, but it turns out Acuña is not perfect. The haters hate that he wears chunky chains and leaves his jersey unbuttoned and accessorizes like a champ. God forbid anyone have fun!

Because baseball could use to be fun. I feel like watching baseball today is both tougher and easier than ever. Tougher because the games seem like they last longer than they’ve ever lasted. I’m pretty sure Major League Baseball instituted some rules designed to speed up play, but Game Four lasted about four hours. I’m all for the games being stressful and packed with emotion, but man, I’ve got other stuff to do, too.

At the same time, technology has made baseball more accessible than ever. I watched the first five innings of Game 4 on my phone while sitting courtside at the Grizzlies preseason game. I then jumped in my car and listened to a bit of the game on SiriusXM, then went to the gym and watched a few innings while on the treadmill, then got home for the last few innings. It’s incredibly hard to dedicate four hours to anything other than sleep, but if I can dip in and out on different platforms, maybe we can still make baseball work.

After the Grizz won an exhibition game the other night, one responded to our Grind City Rewind post on Twitter by asking “Can this team win 50 games? Yes or no. How long do we have to wait for a winning team?”

Realizing Twitter isn’t the place for nuance, I didn’t respond. But I wanted to say, You wait as long as you have to wait. This is sports, where nothing is promised, nothing is given. We’ve seen teams hit rebuild and accumulate young talent time and assets time and again, and end up with zero winning seasons to show for it. If you are lucky, at some point in your life you might get to see your team win just one title. Which will be an incredible feeling! But that’s only if you’re lucky.

You want to be a sports fan? Get used to being bloodied and bruised. There will be plenty more horrific scooter crashes than there will be miracle landings.

Which is all part of the bargain.


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