What would a losing streak drive you to? Would you lean into a pitch? Quit the team? Get a vasectomy? In Andrew Erkkila’s “The Danbury Firebirds,” an unusually long losing streak leads to unusual reactions. This absurd story will stick with you all week. Read on below:
God is the light and we’re all looking through a kaleidoscope at him. God is everywhere, he said. God is our team and their team. Drunk on metaphor, the priest kept going.
Hold on, father, I said. Let’s not get carried away. If you start telling our team that the other team are their equals in God, they’re going to lose all their fighting spirit.
There’s only so many fiery pep talks you can give when the talent isn’t there. Sometimes that’s life. There’s no victory in sight. You just pray for a miracle.
I try to put the games St. Regis lost behind me and focus on right now. Bottom of the ninth, two outs. Down by two. Bases loaded. With zero wins and thirty-eight losses, we need a success to hit the reset button.
Danny Fierce is on the mound, a long-armed sniper. Though really, he’d never hurt anyone. He’s an outspoken pacifist, a factor that seriously complicates my plan: If I can just convince Rusty to step into the pitch, we can get to the top of the lineup and clean house. We need a win bad.
The first pitch flies, and Rusty chops the air. Strike one.
I call time and gesture him over.
Rusty, I want you to step into the pitch.
It’s our last shot. Do you want to be the reason we lost our last game of the season?
You’re insane, he says.
Look if you get hit, what’s the worst that can happen? We charge the mound. We can kick their asses. We need the morale, Rusty. Now listen, you have to make it look like an accident, otherwise it’s a strike.
That’s a nice bit of info, he says.
If not for me, do it for the nuns.
He looks over. They’re doing the wave. They’re nowhere near as encouraging as real cheerleaders, but they’re less distracting.
You’re really sick, he says.
If being a sick is an illness, I tell him, winning is the cure.
He steps back to the plate, shaking his head.