After Alex Bregman dropped the single that knocked in the winning run in Sunday’s ludicrous Game 5, the broadcast caught Carlos Correa jumping onto the field in reaction to pinch runner Derek Fisher making a sprint toward the plate.
Correa first swung his arm in circles as if he were the third base coach, then he flailed, and then, fist up, he sprinted toward the plate.
Correa, apparently, blacked out. He said on Twitter that he “can’t recall doing that.”
Baseball is an exceptional vessel for emotion. It’s the sport that best allows people to engage with their quaint side, it engenders a hundred million words on dads and sons, and, in the case of Correa and everyone other than Dodgers fans watching that moment, it creates opportunities for pure, uninhibited feelings.
In general, it’s uncivilized to walk around in common life with the full, or nearly full, range of human reactivity on display. To function in modern society, emotions must be repressed in favor of pragmatism, logic, reason, restraint, and a bunch of shit that sure as shit does not look like Carlos Correa flailing his arms. It’s behavioral conditioning, it’s essential, and even at the highest peaks of success and joy, most people would have trouble tapping into even one one-millionth of the euphoria Correa exhibited on instinct.
Think of the best, brightest moments of your life. Maybe it’s a career move that raised your income by 75 percent or helped you “make it”; maybe it’s your wedding day, the days your children were born; maybe it’s the day you reached the summit of Everest. These are the events that are usually seen as typical pinnacles of individual happiness. And in all of those examples—and I would bet some money on most of the ones you’d list yourself—that feeling you felt was the culmination of a long process. A trusted and beloved companion did not appear out of thin air in a long, white dress. You worked hard to figure out how to use those crampons and the oxygen cans you needed to get to the top. Accomplishment is the top of the top. It’s the feeling that provides a sense of purpose.
But you probably won’t sprint around and lose your mind. There might be a celebration dinner, maybe a secret fist pump in the office kitchen, maybe an ecstatic phone call to the person closest to you. It’s not the acute shock to the system that for Correa, and most people watching that long, theatrical game, the Astros’ walk-off provoked. It’s the unexpected outcomes that create that sort of unleashing. It’s a pure physiological reaction that bursts through the veil of inhibition.
Baseball is a game of unexpected outcomes. I considered other sports. In football, it’s somewhat rare to have a true surprise. The Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead was absolutely remarkable; the Iron Bowl Kick-Six was unexpected, but that’s what makes it a once-in-a-lifetime event. A buzzer-beater from 30 feet back is one of the most hold your breath and pray moments in sports. Everything in hockey seems to be regulated chaos.
But in baseball, there are a billion and four different outcomes in any single moment, and there is no clock limiting the possibilities. It’s a game that people smarter than me have quantified in nearly every way imaginable, and yet, it’s by its nature the game that allows for the most random deviation of what’s expected based on the information about every batter, every pitcher, even every fielder now. To watch baseball is to submit to a reprieve from control. It’s the ultimate antidote to control-freak tendencies. It’s a game of suspense and chance, and when that outcome is a ball hit 450 feet through the park, it’s a game of wonder.
In New York there is a place called the Wrecking Club where people can go and simply break shit. You can release the rage or the ennui that you’ve buried deep down, if you can access it in your allotted 30-minute window. Negative emotions are much, much more difficult to restrain than those of euphoria, but this company has capitalized on something that hardly exists in modern society: A safe place to release those feelings. It’s somewhere where it’s okay to do what’s not okay to do.
You can find that in stadiums and in sports bars, too. There’s somewhat of a herd mentality in any place where the majority of the attendees share a common focal point for that feeling. Where else do you high-five strangers or shout at the top of your lungs? Astros fans at the ballpark and at sports bars across the country may not have sprinted in circles flailing like the team’s beloved shortstop, but I’d guess they probably felt how Correa acted. Watching Correa react like that—watching any ballplayer react that strongly in an age when broadcasts know fans love a good reaction shot—inspires the feeling of being seen, of being represented by someone cooler than you. It feels good as hell to watch a guy like Correa act on instinct because in general, the rest of us can’t. It’s cathartic to watch him express himself without being self-conscious or restrained. To emote so damn hard he blacked out.
It’s a point of envy. Wouldn’t it be nice to do that? To let go of inhibitions?
Don’t you wish this were you? I do.
If the first five games are any indication, tonight’s Game 6 will almost certainly drive fans of both the Astros and the Dodgers to the brink of emotional collapse. Remotes will be thrown, salty and fatty foods will be mindlessly consumed, seconds will feel like hours. When those plays are made—the types of plays that spike the adrenaline and drop the jaw—watch not just the ball or the outcome, but the players in the background or the cutaways after a replay. Check them out. You just might see yourself.